Has the Bible Been Faithfully Preserved?
- Has Jesus’ Testament Been Faithfully Preserved?
- Errant Formation of the Christian New Testament
- Christian Canon Truths
Jesus neither had a christian "New Testament" nor endorsed any such scriptures. For 1700 years the supposed "infallibility" of the man-created "christian bible" has been professed. A book created by corrupt men, for corrupt means, to continue their traditions. Self-professed leaders and saints of men argue it's supposed infallibility yet never discuss how Jesus only taught from Torah (or Tanakh). They never mention that the twelve disciples didn't go around handing out King James Bibles on their travels through the Jewish lands. Yet with the provenance of the "bible" resting solely with errant and corrupt men, and it's torrid past so open to everyone willing to see, the lies are still perpetrated.
Modern day Christian doctrine rests upon the premise that “God” preserved the "christian bible" in an absolute infallible and pure state, in order that all men should know the “truth” and believe in the Son of ‘God’. Their doctrinal position is that if “God” permitted the Bible to have been altered, then the present day church could not be genuine. Based upon this dogmatic presumption that the Christian Church must be maintained in order for man to be saved, they reason that “God” would not allow the written word of the scriptures to be corrupted. Thus, modern Christians cling to this doctrine -- ignoring overwhelming evidence to the contrary -- evidence from their own patristic church founders that demonstrates conclusively that the bible has been severely altered and edited -- because they fail to grasp the very foundational principles of the Renewed Covenant itself -- principles that are not just historical, but spiritual as well. It is not until we understand that the Set Apart Word is a road-map that leads us to the Gate of the Kingdom, and the Word that is written in our hearts -- rather than a final revelation from “God” to man -- that we are able to even begin to come to terms with the true Set Apart Word of YHWH that can never be corrupted.
The very assertion of Christian Church Authority that either the Church or the scriptures must be preserved in order for man to obtain salvation not only demonstrates a total inability to perceive the essence of the Gospel message -- but perhaps more importantly, has already been historically disproven and demonstrated to be in error. Once the Church was adopted by Rome in the fourth century, it became unlawful for the scriptures to be given into the hands of the common believer -- thus, throughout most of Christian history the written text of the scriptures was not available to the people. Furthermore, the Church itself became so Pagan and corrupt, that it was often referred to throughout history as the "synagogue of Satan" (Rev 2:9;3:9). In a letter to Pope Leo X on September 6th, 1520, Martin Luther wrote of the Christianity of his day that the church, "...once the holiest of all, has become the most licentious den of thieves, the most shameless of all brothels, the kingdom of sin, death, and hell. It is so bad that even Antichrist himself, if he should come, could think of nothing to add to its wickedness" (Quoted in: The Great Thoughts; compiled by George Seldes).
Adopting the decrees of the Council of Trent (1545-63), the [Catholic] Church subsequently extended the process of erasure and ordered the preparation of a special list of specific information to be expunged from early Christian writings (Delineation of Roman Catholicism, Rev. Charles Elliott, DD, G. Lane & P. P. Sandford, New York, 1842, p. 89; also, The Vatican Censors, Professor Peter Elmsley, Oxford, p. 327, pub. date n/a).
In 1562, the Vatican established a special censoring office called Index Expurgatorius. Its purpose was to prohibit publication of "erroneous passages of the early Church Fathers" that carried statements opposing modern-day doctrine. When Vatican archivists came across "genuine copies of the Fathers, they corrected them according to the Expurgatory Index" (Index Expurgatorius Vaticanus, R. Gibbings, ed., Dublin, 1837; The Literary Policy of the Church of Rome, Joseph Mendham, J. Duncan, London, 1830, 2nd ed., 1840; The Vatican Censors, op. cit., p. 328). This Church record provides researchers with "grave doubts about the value of all patristic writings released to the public" (The Propaganda Press of Rome, Sir James W. L. Claxton, Whitehaven Books, London, 1942, p. 182).
The problem is that, regardless of how much evidence is shown to the majority of modern Christians -- evidence which demonstrates conclusively that the New Testament scriptures were severely altered by the Church of Rome -- they will refuse to acknowledge the facts. Why? Because the majority of modern Christians are a disenfranchised people -- severed from the presence of the indwelling Spirit which is given to the truly faithful disciples in order to teach them -- and they are afraid to deviate from their present-day doctrine and church dogma. In the Set Apart Assemblies of the Renewed Covenant that was ordained by the Son of Elohim, all revelation is made directly from God to the faithful assembly. But because the modern believer has been alienated from the very essence of the fundamentals of Renewed Covenant teachings, they fear the spiritual journey associated with the beginning of the walk in The Way. The Son of Elohim calls out to them -- but because they are anchored to this world by the doctrines and traditions of men, they are afraid to actually pick up their own crosses and follow in the Master’s footsteps in The Way.
When directly confronted with the overwhelming evidence and facts with respect to the wholesale corruption of the scriptures, the fundamentalist defensively responds with a variation of the rather absurd assertion that "God wrote the King James Version of the Bible". Thus, no amount of rationale will possibly convince them of anything to the contrary. Because it is true that the fourth century Roman Church severely altered the written word and composition of the scriptures, then it is absolutely necessary for the modern believer to search out the facts. Faith in the Word means that if we are a truly faithful people, that the Son of YHWH will open our minds and enlighten us to the Truth. When we therefore ignore the facts, and blindly cling to the error of the corrupt church of Rome.
If haSatan is The Deceiver, then it is haSatan who seduces Christians into believing that our scriptures were protected from being altered. Contrary to our many assertions of denial, the historical evidence (from within the ancient church record and outside of it) shows conclusively that this is not the case -- and the Bible no longer represents the original form of the text. Yet, it is only because the modern church no longer possesses the spiritual essence and vision of the original followers of the Galilean Jew that was established in the first century, that the corruption of our scriptures creates a hindrance to the believer in our present time.
One of the most common biblical manuscripts used to make our modern English translations is known today as the Nestle Text. Yet it was Prof. Eberhard Nestle himself who warned us in his Einfhrung in die Textkritik des griechischen Testaments: "Learned men, so called Correctors were, following the church meeting at Nicea 325 AD, selected by the church authorities to scrutinize the sacred texts and rewrite them in order to correct their meaning in accordance with the views which the church had just sanctioned." When the Church of Constantine endeavored to make the teachings of the Renewed Covenant in sync with fourth century Roman Pagan thought and culture, to ignore the facts with respect to the manner in which the corrupters of the Word recreated the message of the scriptures in order to make it compatible to church doctrine, is to make oneself disingenuous to the very Son of Elohim to whom we proclaim to be faithful to.
The truth and the facts to the matter is very clearly expressed in the words of Prof. Bart D. Ehrman in his book, The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture, where he warns us that: "...theological disputes, specifically disputes over Christology, prompted Christian scribes to alter the words of scripture in order to make them more serviceable for the polemical task. Scribes modified their manuscripts to make them more patently ‘orthodox’ and less susceptible to ‘abuse’ by the opponents of orthodoxy" -- which orthodoxy was to bring the text of the Bible into conformity with the doctrines and tenets of the Church of the Roman Emperor Constantine. To close our hearts and minds to the facts, and ignore the truth, is from a Renewed Covenant perspective synonymous with relinquishing any claim whatsoever with respect to being a follower of Jesus.
With regard to the condition of the Bible we presently use: The surviving Greek texts of the book of Acts are so radically different from each other, that it has been suggested that perhaps there were multiple versions written. In his book The Text of the New Testament, Dr. Vincent Taylor writes that "The manuscripts of the New Testament preserve traces of two kinds of dogmatic alterations: those which involve the elimination or alteration of what was regarded as doctrinally unacceptable or inconvenient, and those which introduce into the Scriptures proof for a favorite theological tenet or practice".
To put Dr. Taylor's words in perspective: He is stating is that, whatever doctrine Jesus taught, which the Church of the Roman Empire did not agree with, there is overwhelming evidence that the church corrupters removed what was objectionable from their perspective. In like manner, whatever doctrines the Church regarded as being true, regardless of whether that belief was supported in the scriptures, the Church inserted this belief into the Bible in an attempt to make it authentic. What Dr. Taylor is warning us is there is good reason to conclude that our scriptures have been rewritten wholesale by the Church of Constantine. Now the question that is being posed here is whether you believe the theological tenets of Rome, or the disciples of Jesus -- because the two are not the same.
In the year 1707, John Mill shattered all faith in the infallibility of the bible by demonstrating 30,000 various readings which were produced from 80 manuscripts. The findings of, first Mill, and then Wetstein (1751), proved once and for all that the variations in the biblical texts, many of which were quite serious, had existed from the earliest of times.
In the Preface to the Revised Standard Version of the bible this notable statement is made regarding the need for a revision of the English translation: "Yet the King James Version has grave defects... was based upon a Greek text that was marred by mistakes, containing the accumulated errors of fourteen centuries of manuscript copying. It was essentially the Greek text of the New Testament as edited by Beza, 1589, who closely followed that published by Erasmus, 1516-1535, which was based upon a few medieval manuscripts. The earliest and best of the eight manuscripts which Erasmus consulted was from the tenth century, and he made the least use of it because it differed most from the commonly received text; Beza had access to two manuscripts of great value dating from the fifth and sixth centuries, but he made very little use of them because they differed from the text published by Erasmus".
One of the oldest copies of the Bible which dates back to the fifth century is the Codex Bezae, of which the Britannica writes: "Codex Bezae... has a text that is very different from other witnesses. Codex Bezae has many distinctive longer and shorter readings and seems almost to be a separate edition. Its 'Acts, for example, is one-tenth longer than usual". How can we have a Bible that is said to be "almost... a separate edition"? If this is true, it is important for us to know which edition is the correct one? And in answering this question, we must also determine the criteria we should employ in our effort to choose which of these separate editions we should use in our Bible translations? The traditional answer to this question is very simple -- i.e., we choose the biblical texts that support our doctrines of belief, and reject the texts that do not -- but is this the means by which we are able to be certain that we have chosen the correct edition?
Regarding this serious problem presented by Codex Bezae, Dr. Vincent Taylor writes that: "It is characterized by a series of remarkable omissions in Luke, especially in chapters XXII and XXIV, and by many striking additions and variations in the Acts" (The Text of the New Testament, Dr. Vincent Taylor). How would these "remarkable omissions" and "striking additions and variations" effect our doctrines of belief? We don't know, because we only translate what supports church doctrine and agrees with what we want to believe. From a biblical perspective, this is not only spiritually dishonest, but could well be detrimental to our spiritual well- being!
Christians who desire truth over error will want to know when the problem of scriptural alteration began. Something which no sincere believer today should take lightly is the charge against Christians by Celsus, the second century Epicurean philosopher, who alleged that: "Certain Christians, like men who are overcome by the fumes of wine and care not in the least what they say, alter the original text of the Gospels so that they admit of various and almost indefinite readings. And this, I suppose, they have done out of worldly policy, so that when we press an argument home, they might have the more scope for their pitiful evasions". To which allegation the third century Church Father Origen replied: "Besides, it is not at all fair to bring this charge against the Christian religion as a crime unworthy of its pretended purity; only those persons who were concerned in the fraud should, in equity, be held answerable for it" (Origen, Contra Celsus).
What we see is that the words of Origen -- which were composed in the third century when he was commissioned by the church to answer the allegations of Celsus that were written in the second century -- is an acknowledgement that there: "are some who corrupt the Gospel histories, and who introduce heresies opposed to the meaning of the doctrine of Jesus". In this statement we can thus readily see that Origen not only admits to the alteration of the scriptures -- alterations made for purely doctrinal reasons -- is a fact, and that many of these heresies that have been introduced into the text of the Bible are intended to oppose the genuine "doctrine of Jesus". Further, Origen’s reply also verifies that this wholesale corruption of the scriptures took place as early as the second century when Celsus originally made this allegation against the Church. And what was it that Celsus alleged? That the Christian scriptures "admit of various and almost indefinite readings" because "the original text of the Gospels" has been altered to coincide and substantiate the doctrines of the Gentile converts in an attempt to prove their tenets of belief.
How can we claim today that our Bibles accurately portray what God or His son spoke, when in the second century it was alleged that our scriptures "admit of various and almost indefinite readings"? Thus we must ask: On what basis do we choose which reading we will put in our Bibles, and which we will ignore? Again, the answer is simple: We choose the readings that say what we want to hear. The problem is that there is strong evidence to support the position that many of the most important original passages of scripture have been so cleansed from all the surviving Greek Manuscripts, that they no longer exist in the texts we use to make our modern-day translations.
The fact that the very people who copied the scriptures often altered by adding and redacting the original words and meaning in accordance with their own beliefs is confirmed by St. Jerome when he wrote: "They write down not what they find but what they think is the meaning; and while they attempt to rectify the errors of others, they merely expose their own" (Jerome, Epist. lxxi.5). Thus, each copy was edited to clarify the beliefs of the copyist. Each scribe who copied the manuscripts and found something he did not agree with, viewed the offending verse of scripture as an error of the previous copyist.Under the title Versions of the Scriptures, The New Unger's Bible Dictionary states that: "Jerome had not been long in Rome (A.D. 383) when Damasus asked him to make a revision of the current Latin version of the New Testament with the help of the Greek original. 'There were,' he says, 'almost as many forms of text as copies.' The gospels had naturally suffered most. Jerome therefore applied himself to these first. But his aim was to revise the Old Latin and not to make a new version. Yet, although he had this limited objective, the various forms of corruption that had been introduced were, as he describes them, so numerous that the difference of the old and revised (Hieronymian) text is clear and striking throughout. Some of the changes Jerome introduced were made purely on linguistic grounds, but it is impossible to ascertain on what principle he proceeded in this respect. Others involved questions of interpretation. But the greater number consisted in the removal of the interpolations by which especially the synoptic gospels were disfigured".
It is true that many interpolations were inserted into the scriptures by men who attempted to prove the validity of their beliefs. The problem was that many genuine passages of text were removed because they did not conform to the beliefs of the Roman Church -- and what was considered an interpolation, were in many instances the most important passages of the original scriptures from the position of a Spiritual Church vs an Institutionalized one.
What we fail to realize today is that during this period, every single document was edited and revised to confirm the doctrine of the Roman Church. The noted Church Historian Eusebius quotes the Church Father Dionysius (Hist. Eccl., Bk. 4. 23), who reports that his own epistles had been tampered with: "When my fellow Christians invited me to write letters to them I did so. These the devil's 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".
Eusebius writes of a number of sects of Christians of his day: "Therefore they have laid their hands boldly upon the Divine Scriptures, alleging that they have corrected them. That I am not speaking falsely of them in this matter, whoever wishes may learn. For if any one will collect their respective copies, and compare them one with another, he will find that they differ greatly. Those of Asclepiades, for example, do not agree with those of Theodotus. And many of these can be obtained, because their disciples have assiduously written the corrections, as they call them, that is the corruptions, of each of them. Again, those of Hermophilus do not agree with these, and those of Apollonides are not consistent with themselves. For you can compare those prepared by them at an earlier date with those which they corrupted later, and you will find them widely different. But how daring this offense is, it is not likely that they themselves are ignorant. For either they do not believe that the Divine Scriptures were spoken by the Holy Spirit, and thus are unbelievers, or else they think themselves wiser than the Holy Spirit, and in that case what else are they than demoniacs? For they cannot deny the commission of the crime, since the copies have been written by their own hands. For they did not receive such Scriptures from their instructors, nor can they produce any copies from which they were transcribed".
Writing about the text of the Bible in his day, St. Augustine wrote: "For those who are anxious to know the Scriptures ought in the first place to use their skill in the correction of the texts, so that the uncorrected ones should give way to the corrected" (De Doctrina Christ., II. 14). With regard to the sect of the Manicheans who refused to accept the doctrine of original sin, Augustine wrote: "Which argument must be regarded as against the Manicheans, who do not receive the holy Scriptures of the Old Testament, in which original sin is narrated; and whatever thence is read in the apostolic epistles, they contend was introduced with a detestable impudence by the corrupters of the Scriptures". Thus, every group and every sect accused the others of corrupting the scriptures with interpolations to prove their own particular brand and flavor of beliefs.
Irenaeus said of those he called heretics that they "certainly recognize the Scriptures; but they pervert the interpretations" (Adv. Haer. III.12). These perversions often rested on a corrupt biblical text. Tertullian attributes the intentional contaminations of the text to the heretics when he wrote "Now, inasmuch as all interpolation must believed to be a later process... One man perverts the scriptures with his hand, another their meaning by his exposition... Marcion expressly and openly used the knife, not the pen, since he made such an excision of the scriptures as suits his own subject matter" (De Praescript. 38). What Tertullian makes reference to is the fact that Marcion removed whole sections of scripture because he did not agree with what was written.
Fraudulent scriptures and epistles were so rampant in the early church, that no two copies were the same. This fact is especially seen in the Introduction to Ignatius in the Anti-Nicean Library where it reads: "There are, in all, fifteen Epistles which bear the name of Ignatius. These are the following: One to the Virgin Mary, two to the Apostle John, one to Mary of Cassobelae, one to the Tarsians, one to the Antiochians, one to Hero, a deacon of Antioch, one to the Philippians; one to the Ephesians, one to the Magnesians, one to the Trallians, one to the Romans, one to the Philadelphians, one to the Smyrnaeans, and one to Polycarp. The first three exist only in Latin: all the rest are extant also in Greek. It is now the universal opinion of critics, that the first eight of these professedly Ignatian letters are spurious. They bear in themselves indubitable proofs of being the production of a later age than that in which Ignatius lived. Neither Eusebius nor Jerome makes the least reference to them; and they are now by common consent set aside as forgeries, which were at various dates, and to serve special purposes, put forth under the name of the celebrated Bishop of Antioch".
With regard to those epistles which are acknowledged as the genuine writings of Ignatius, even among this group there are numerous intentional additions and interpolations that were introduced into the text to make them support the doctrine of the later Church of the Roman Empire. With regard to the variations in the readings, the Introduction to Ignatius in the Anti-Nicean Library states: "But after the question has been thus simplified, it still remains sufficiently complex. Of the seven Epistles which are acknowledge by Eusebius (Hist. Eccl., iii. 36), we possess two Greek recensions, a shorter and a longer. It is plain that one or other of these exhibits a corrupt text, and scholars have for the most part agreed to accept the shorter form as representing the genuine letters of Ignatius. This was the opinion generally acquiesced in, from the time when critical editions of these Epistles began to be issued, down to our own day. Criticism, indeed, fluctuated a good deal as to which Epistles should be accepted and which rejected. Archp. Usher (1644), Isaac Vossius (1646), J. B. Cotelerius (1672), Dr. T. Smith (1709), and others, edited the writings ascribed to Ignatius in forms differing very considerably as to the order in which they were arranged, and the degree of authority assigned them, until at length, from about the beginning of the eighteenth century, the seven Greek Epistles, of which a translation is here given, came to be generally accepted in their shorter form as the genuine writings of Ignatius".
Under the heading of Apostolic Fathers - Ignatius, the 1968 edition of the Britannica states: "In the 4th century (or perhaps later) his letters suffered interpolation, and six more were added by someone who found Ignatian theology hard to reconcile with the conclusions of the council of Nicaea (or of Chalcedon)".
The Council of Nicaea was convened by the Emperor Constantine, and was called for the express purpose of requiring all Christians throughout the empire to adhere to the doctrine of the Trinity -- which doctrine was founded upon the writings of Plato -- We know today that interpolations were added to most of the early Christian writings to find support for this doctrine that had always been part of the Pagan world, but absent from Jewish and early ‘Christian-Jewish’ (Jerusalem Church) teachings.
As just one example of an interpolation to support the doctrine of the Trinity, Ignatius writes in the shorter version: "For if I be truly found [a Christian], I may also be called one, and be then deemed faithful, when I shall no longer appear to the world. Nothing visible is eternal. 'For the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal’". To this text which is taken from the shorter version, the longer version of Ignatius adds: "For our God, Jesus Christ, now that He is with the Father, is all the more revealed [in His glory]". The Church of the Roman Empire then used these interpolations in an attempt to bring their favorite doctrines which were of a Pagan origin into the new synthesized religion inaugurated by the Emperor Constantine.
Why were these epistles corrupted? Ignatius was a first century Christian. If the Roman Church could demonstrate that Ignatius believed that Jesus was God, then the many Christian’s who held dissenting opinions could more readily be silenced.
In the endeavor to recreate Renewed Covenant teachings as a secular institution -- an anti-Gnostic redemptive religion with its focus on the control of the masses -- many essential elements of the spiritual essence of the scriptures had to be modified and changed. There is nothing in the original Gospels that would affirm the opinion that the Messiah Jesus had any great respect for secular authorities. In view of the fact that we now can demonstrate the link between the Gnostic Essenes and Jesus through the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, we can easily support the claim that Jesus viewed the governments of this world as being empowered by bad forces, evil men, etc. Therefore, in order to make Christianity compatible with the secular environment of Rome, certain additions to the scriptures were intended to bring the more radical anti-secular elements of the religion under control by the use of biblical edicts to obey the government. These numerous interpolations are found throughout the epistles, and can often be easily detected, as is the case in pseudopigraphic 1 Peter 2: 12-20:
(14) Having your behavior honest among the Gentiles, that, whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation. (15) For so is the will of God, that with well-doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men; (16) As free, and not using your liberty for a cloak of maliciousness, but as the servants of God. (19) For this is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully. (20) For what glory is it if, when ye are buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? But if, when ye do well and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God"Verses 13-14 and 17-18, which instruct the reader to submit themselves to the ordinances of man and honor the kings and governors was put there to exert political and social control over the people by the secular authorities of the Roman Empire. This type of interpolation is easily seen in the Epistles of Ignatius.
Moreover, it is in accordance with reason that we should return to soberness [of conduct], and, while yet we have opportunity, exercise repentance towards God. It is well to reverence both God and the bishop. He who honors the bishop has been honored by God; he who does anything without the knowledge of the bishop, does [in reality] serve the devil. Let all things, then, abound to you through grace, for ye are worthy. Ye have refreshed me in all things, and Jesus Christ [shall refresh] you. Ye have loved me when absent as well as when present. May God recompense you, for whose sake, while ye endure all things, ye shall attain unto Him.
Interpolated Long Version:
Moreover, it is in accordance with reason that we should return to soberness [of conduct], and, while yet we have opportunity, exercise repentance towards God. For "in Hades there is no one who can confess his sins." For "behold the man, and his work is before him." And [the Scripture saith], "My son, honor thou God and the king." And say I, Honor thou God indeed, as the Author and Lord of all things, but the bishop as the high-priest, who bears the image of God - inasmuch as he is a ruler, and of Christ, in his capacity of a priest. After Him, we must also honor the king. For there is no one superior to God, or even like to Him, among all the beings that exist. Nor is there any one in the Church greater than the bishop, who ministers as a priest to God for the salvation of the whole world. Nor, again, is there any one among rulers to be compared with the king, who secures peace and good order to those over whom he rules. He who honors the bishop shall be honored by God, even as he that dishonors him shall be punished by God. For if he that rises up against kings is justly held worthy of punishment, inasmuch as he dissolves public order, of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who presumes to do anything without the bishop, thus both destroying the [Church's] unity, and throwing its order into confusion? For the priesthood is the very highest point of all good things among men, against which whosoever is mad enough to strive, dishonors not man, but God, and Christ Jesus, the First-born, and the only High Priest, by nature, of the Father. Let all things therefore be done by you with good order in Christ. Let the laity be subject to the deacons; the deacons to the presbyters; the presbyters to the bishop; the bishop to Christ, even as He is to the Father. As ye, brethren, have refreshed me, so will Jesus Christ refresh you. Ye have loved me when absent, as well as when present. God will recompense you, for whose sake ye have shown such kindness towards His prisoner. For even if I am not worthy of it, yet your zeal [to help me] is an admirable thing. For "he who honors a prophet in the name of a prophet, shall receive a prophet's reward." It is manifest also, that he who honors a prisoner of Jesus Christ shall receive the reward of the martyrs.
In addition to the concept of submission to the king, emperor, or more appropriately, any government official, we also see the addition of the doctrine of hell in the words: "In Hades there is no one who can confess his sins". This doctrine was of the utmost importance to the Roman Institutionalized Church because the doctrine of hell was a necessary foundational concept which was then used to control the masses and bringing them into subjection to the secular authorities.
Through the power of both the sword and the pen, the new religion of the Roman Empire took total control of the people. In every instance, the emperor was the highest, and often the sole authority on acceptable doctrine and all church matters. With the force of his armies, Constantine crushed all Ecclesiastical resistance, set his opinions up as the only valid doctrinal positions of the Church -- and in the process, put the spiritual essence of the Church to death in the creation of an institutionalized church. In those instances where the Bible was at variance with the religious tenets ordained by the Roman Church, the scriptures were altered to support and affirm church doctrine.
Moving on to other early church writers, under the heading of Apostolic Fathers - Polycarp, the Britannica writes: "These apparent contradictions have led many scholars to suppose that they are two letters rather than one. It is also possible, though uncertain, that like Ignatius' letters, that of Polycarp has undergone later revision. The Monophysites, who were quite careful in citing authorities, provided quotations from Polycarp that do not exactly correspond with the existing text (much of which is available in a late Latin translation)". Quoting from the Introduction to Polycarp in the Anti-Nicean Library: "That this Epistle has been interpolated can hardly be doubted, when we compare it with the unvarnished specimen, in Eusebius... A great part of it has been engrossed by Eusebius in his Ecclesiastical History (iv. 15); and it is instructive to observe, that some of the most startling miraculous phenomena recorded in the text as it now stands, have no place in the narrative as given by that early historian of the Church".
Under Clementine Literature, the Britannica states that "It became the starting point of the most momentous and gigantic of medieval forgeries, the Isidorian Decretals', where it stands at the head of the pontifical letters, extended to more than twice its original length. This extension perhaps occurred during the 5th century".
In his book, Introduction to the New Testament, B.W. Bacon wrote: "The Christian can only mitigate the disrespect he feels for plagiarists and impostors by the reflection that the conscience of the second century had practically no recognition for those literary crimes, rampant as they then were in the Church" (p. 168). Yet it is the product of these "literary crimes" that believers put their faith in when they read their Bibles today!
In his Introduction to the Criticism of the New Testament, by Dr. F. H. Scrivener, he writes that: "In the second century we have seen too many instances of attempts to tamper with the text of Scripture, some merely injudicious, others positively dishonest". Scrivener states that "it is no less true to fact than paradoxical in sound, that the worst corruptions to which the New Testament has ever been subjected, originated within 100 years after it was composed: and that Irenaeus and the African Fathers, and the whole Western, with a portion of the Syrian Church" used inferior manuscripts.
Of what is called the Great Unicals, Scrivener writes of Codex Sinaititus (4th Century): "From the number of errors, one cannot affirm that it is very carefully written. The whole manuscript is disfigured by corrections, a few by the original scribe, very many by an ancient and elegant hand of the 6th Century whose emendations are of great importance, some again by a hand a little later, for the greatest number by a scholar of the 7th Century who often cancels the changes by the 6th Century amender, others by as many as eight (8) different later writers" (Scrivener, Page 93, Vol. I). Regarding the Codex Vaticanus (4th Century) he writes: "One marked feature is the great number of omissions which induced Dr. Dobbin to speak of it as an abbreviated text of the New Testament. He calculates that whole words or clauses are left out no less than 2556 times" (Scrivener, Page 120, Volume I).
In his book The Revision Revised, Dean Burgon asks "Ought it not sensibly to detract from our opinion of the value of their evidence, (Codex B and Codex Aleph) to discover that it is easier to find two consecutive verses in which the two manuscripts differ, the one from the other, than two consecutive verses in which they entirely agree? ...On every such occasion only one of them can possibly be speaking the truth. Shall I be thought unreasonable if I confess that these perpetual inconsistencies, between Codd B and Aleph -- grave inconsistencies and occasionally even gross ones -- altogether destroy my confidence in either?"
Or, in the words of Scrivener: "The point on which we insist is briefly this: that the evidence of ancient authorities is anything but unanimous, that they are perpetually at variance with each other, even if we limit the term ancient within the narrowest bounds. Shalt it include, among the manuscripts of the Gospels, none but the five oldest copies of Codd, Aleph A B C D? The reader has but to open the first recent critical work he shalt meet with, to see them scarcely ever in unison, perpetually divided two against three, or perhaps four against one."
With regard to the textual problems of the King James Version, Dr. Tischendorf writes: "...this text (the Received Text) differs in many places from the oldest authorities of the 4th, 5th and 6th centuries, and, therefore, must be replaced by a text which is really drawn from the oldest sources discoverable. THE DIFFICULTY OF FINDING SUCH A TEXT LIES IN THIS THAT THERE IS A GREAT DIVERSITY AMONG THESE TEXTS" (Codex Sinaiticus; by Dr. C. Tischendorf, p. 85).
John W. Burgon, one of the most respected of scholars, is cited by Dr. David O. Fuller in his book WHICH BIBLE?, when he wrote in reference to Codexes B, Aleph, D, and L: "I insist and am prepared to prove that the text of these two Codexes (B and Aleph) is very nearly the foulest in existence" (Pp. 126-127); and "That they exhibit fabricated texts is demonstrable... B and Aleph are covered all over with blots -- Aleph even more than B.... We suspect that these two manuscripts are indebted for their preservation, SOLELY TO THEIR ASCERTAINED EVIL CHARACTER" (Pg. 93, 128). Burgon then goes on further and states: "No amount of honest copying -- persevered in for any number of centuries -- could possibility have resulted in two such documents" (Pg. 93). Burgon also said: "By far the most depraved text is that exhibited by CODEX D" (Pg. 93).
How can a copy of the scriptures be said to be preserved "solely to their ascertained evil character"? What if biblical scholars Wescott and Hort are correct in their conclusion that the "original texts are forever lost" -- and all the remaining texts have been preserved solely because of their evil character, while the texts that more faithfully preserved the purity of the Gospel have all been destroyed because they did not agree with the doctrines of the Roman Church? Moreover, what is in the text that would cause a biblical scholar to call the copy "depraved"? Are they depraved, or are these passages just contrary to accepted church doctrine? These are important questions that faithful believers should be asking. Do these Codexes really contain "fabricated texts", or are they said to be fabricated and depraved simply because they fail to support modern Christian beliefs and dogma?
In its Introduction to the Books of the New Testament, THE NEW AMERICAN BIBLE (p. xxxiv) states that there were probably several different Greek translations of the early collection attributed to Matthew. With regard to the Gospel according to John, even more bolder statements are made by the authors: "It should be remembered that for the ancients authorship was a much broader concept than it is today. In their time a man could be called the ‘author’ of a work if he was the authority behind it, even though he did not write it. Modern critical analysis makes it difficult to accept that the fourth gospel as it now stands was written by one man. Chapter 21 seems to have been added after the gospel was completed; it exhibits a Greek style somewhat different from the rest of the work... Within the gospel itself there are signs of some disorder; e.g., there are two endings to Jesus' discourse at the Last Supper" (NEW AMERICAN BIBLE, p.xxxvii). The footnote goes on to state a widely accepted theory that the Gospel of John was probably written by a disciple of John, and then edited later by others. How much of the gospel is actually from John is impossible to know. The text then goes on to state that the "inconsistencies were probably produced by subsequent editing in which homogeneous materials were added to a shorter original" (THE NEW AMERICAN BIBLE, p. xxxvii).
By using the term "homogeneous materials", the introduction is stating that, like the Epistles of Ignatius, certain passages were inserted by later copyists in an attempt to prove the doctrine of the Trinity. In view of the fact that it is well documented in early church history that the very disciples and ‘Jewish-Christian’ followers of Jesus the Messiah did not believe in the Trinity -- and in view of the many witnesses regarding the alteration of the scriptures to suit the doctrines of the Roman Church, it is easily understood that these "homogeneous materials" were added at a time well after the original gospel was composed.
In order to demonstrate just one example of this attempt to insert material to prove the doctrine of the Trinity, we read in the Authorized or King James Bible: "For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one" (1 Jn 5:7 KJV). In modern translations that are made from much older biblical manuscripts, this verse reads in the manner of the New American Standard: "And it is the Spirit who bears witness, because the Spirit is the truth".
Regarding the validity of 1 John 5:7, the Adam Clarke Commentary states that: "But it is likely this verse is not genuine. It is wanting in every manuscript of this letter written before the invention of printing, one excepted, the Codex Montfortii, in Trinity College, Dublin: the others which omit this verse amount to one hundred and twelve. It is missing in both the Syriac, all the Arabic, Aethiopic, the Coptic, Sahidic, Armenian, Slavonian, etc., in a word, in all the ancient versions but the Vulgate; and even of this version many of the most ancient and correct MSS. have it not. It is wanting also in all the ancient Greek fathers; and in most even of the Latin". Regarding this and other such verses, the New Unger's Bible Dictionary says: "The New Testament teaching upon this subject is not given in the way of formal statement... Reliance, it is held by many competent critics, is not to be placed upon the passages in Acts 20:28 and 1 Tim. 3:16; and 1 John 5:7 is commonly regarded as spurious". What you have just witnessed is the creation of a god with the power of the pen.
Another such doctrinal corruption is found at Matthew 28:19, where it reads: "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you" (Matt 28:19-20 KJV). Of this verse The Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics writes: "It is the central piece of evidence for the traditional view. If it were undisputed, this would, of course, be decisive, but its trustworthiness is impugned on the grounds of textual criticism, literary criticism and historical criticism".
In the Hibbert Journal (1902), F.C. Conybeare is quoted regarding the spurious verse: "In the course of my reading I have been able to substantiate these doubts of the authenticity of the text Mathew 28:19 by adducing patristic evidence against it, so weighty that in future the most conservative of divines will shrink from resting on it any dogmatic fabric at all, while the more enlightened will discard it as completely as they have its fellow-test of the three witnesses".
Conybeare then goes on and quotes the biblical scholar Dr. C.R. Gregory, and writes: "In the case just examined (Matthew 28:19), it is to be noticed that not a single manuscript or ancient version has preserved to us the true reading”. But that is not surprising, for as Dr. C.R. Gregory, one of the greatest of our textual critics, reminds us, 'The Greek MSS of the Text of the New Testament were often altered by the scribes, who put into them the readings which were familiar to them, and which they held to be the right readings' (Canon and Text of the New Testament, 1907, p. 424)".
Conybeare then writes: "These facts speak for themselves. Our Greek texts, not only of the Gospels, but of the Epistles as well, have been revised and interpolated by orthodox copyists. We can trace their perversions of the text in a few cases, with the aid of patristic citations and ancient versions. But there must remain many passages which have been so corrected, but where we cannot today expose the fraud". With regard to the assertion of those many scholars who claim that the New Testament has not been interpolated to support what is known as orthodox doctrines, Conybeare goes on to write: "This is just the opposite of the truth, and such distinguished scholars as Alfred Loisy, K. Wellhausen, Eberhard Nestle, Adolf Harnack, to mention only four names, do not scruple to recognize the fact".
The fact that he speaks of is that the text of the New Testament has been severely altered and revised by the so-called orthodox church of the past. Of the interpolation of Matthew 28:19 where the Church of Constantine attempted to prove the doctrine of the Trinity by inserting it into the text, The Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics writes: "The facts are, in summary, that Eusebius quotes Matthew 28:19 twenty one times, either omitting everything between 'nations' 'and teaching', or in the form 'make disciples of all nations in my name,' the later form being the more frequent". Quoting Eusebius directly, his text reads: "Go ye and make disciples of all nations in my name, teaching them to observe all things, whatsoever I commanded you".
In the publication, The Fraternal Visitor, this assessment was made concerning the falsification of the scriptures: "Codex B (Vaticanus) would be the best of all existing MSS, ...if it were completely preserved, less damaged, (less) corrected, more easily legible, and not altered by a later hand in more than two thousand places. Eusebius, therefore, is not without grounds for accusing the adherents of Athanasius and the newly-risen doctrine of the trinity of falsifying the Bible even more than once" (Fraternal Visitor 1924, p. 148; translated from Christadelphian Monatshefte).
Sir William Whiston in his Second letter to the Bishop of London, 1719, p. 15, further confirms that it was the so-called orthodox church which was directly responsible for all the interpolations and corruptions: "We certainly know of a greater number of interpolations and corruptions brought into the Scriptures by the Athanasians, and relating to the Doctrine of the Trinity, than in any other case whatsoever. While we have not, that I know of, any such interpolation or corruption made in any one of them by either the Eusebians or Arians".
When the text of the Bible reads in the book of Acts regarding the relationship of David to Jesus: "Therefore being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, he would raise up Christ to sit on his throne" (Acts 2:30 KJV) -- the words "according to the flesh" are not found in all the manuscripts. The defenders of the Trinity will state that someone must have added these words. This would then tell us that Jesus was born of the linage of David, and because of his holiness was declared the Son of God by his resurrection. Further, Mary herself calls Jesus the son of Joseph at Luke 2:48. When it is remembered that the Messianic Jewish Christians who knew Jesus personally, including those who wrote our scriptures, did not believe that Jesus was God, perhaps the Lord is saying to us: The time has come where we should do as the YHWH commands us to proof everything against His Word before we blindly believe the doctrines of Constantine.
Every Christian today who desires to know the Truth of YHWH should be alarmed by the fact that neither Jesus nor his disciples taught the concepts of the Trinity. From a doctrinal standpoint with regard to the manner we must live in order to approach the alter of the Mashiyach, one's adherence to this doctrine is an obstruction that inhibits the modern church from embracing the spiritual essence of what Jesus actually taught. When one reads the scriptures through the doctrinal filter of the Trinity, the majority of the Bible is negated and rendered useless. Nowhere in the current “New Testament” does the text even hint that Jesus is to be worshiped in any other manner than as a pattern for each of us to imitate.
In our quest to understand how the Bible was altered, we know that in numerous documented instances the commentaries of early Christians that were often made in the margins were in many instances incorporated into the body of the text by later copyist. Under the heading of Andrew of Caesarea, the Encyclopedia Britannica writes: "Critical scholarship has suggested that Andrew's glosses frequently became part of the book of Revelation's text, resulting in some of its enigmatic passages". Are you therefore reading the words of the disciple John, or are you reading the words of Andrew of Caesarea?
Under the title of Bible in the Church, the Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics writes: "In the first two centuries nearly all the various readings of the New Testament came into existence, the majority of them by deliberate alteration of the text, many for the sake of style, and several in the interests of dogma... Often readings were rejected as falsifications of heretics, but often the heretics were right in their counter-complaint... Every province, every order, every monastery, has a tradition of its own..."
If every province, every order, and every monastery in the first two centuries had their own version of the scriptures which supported their favorite doctrines of belief, then we must seriously ask the question as to what has been passed down to us today? Show me the modern Christian who promotes the idea that their beliefs are from “God” because they are supported by the scriptures, and I will show you believers who have failed to do their duty and search out the truth.
The problem is that believing Christians today have no means to deal with the issue of the corrupted biblical texts, so they have adopted the doctrine that “God” wrote the Authorized, or King James Version of the Bible. It does not matter that the Authorized Version is founded upon the most corrupted manuscripts in existence. It does not matter to this group of believers that the Authorized Version is at many important points in opposition to the original teachings of Jesus haMashiyach. What matters is that the Authorized Version which was composed in the year 1611, says what they want to hear, and therefore they reason that “God” must have written it. Thus, what this ultimately means, is that the faithful flock expects God to be in subjection to man, and conform to the doctrines contained in the believer’s version of the Bible. What they in fact proclaim, is that since the church wrote it, then “God” must accept it!
One of our greatest obstacles today is the fact that a very large amount of scripture alteration was performed by the Roman Church in their quest to rid the texts of what was labeled Judaistic, Legalistic, and heretical interpolations. Why would they alter or remove these passages? The answer is simple once it is realized that as the church was transitioned into a secular institution where all revelation and interpretation was made by the political hierarchy, the idea that man would be taught directly by the indwelling Word was very quickly done away with.
The historical Jewish-Christians were the original disciples and followers of Jesus. Descendants of the Jerusalem Church existed well into the and past the 4th century and some were known as Nazarenes, Mattheans, and Ebionites. They believed that just like the original Covenant, Jesus taught a Renewed Covenant that reaffirmed his Father’s Law and agreement with His Chosen People. They believed that each person individually could learn directly from God if they followed the teachings of Jesus and lived as he taught.
Because these Jewish-Christians refused to support the later Roman Church, they were condemned as heretics and wiped out by the force of Constantine's sword.
The problem with regard to our present day scriptures, as reported in the Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics above, is that "Often readings were rejected as falsifications of heretics, but often the heretics were right". There is nothing in the message of Jesus that supports an institutionalized church. In the teachings of Jesus, the Messiah retains authority, and all disciples have it within their power to learn at the feet of the Master.
It is because the scriptures requires that each follower of the Messiah should be taught only by God, that Jesus commanded his followers not to be called teacher: "But you, do not be called 'Rabbi'; for One is your Teacher, the Christ, and you are all brethren" (Matt 23:8). The followers of the Messiah should not be called Rabbi, or pastor, or priest, or father, because in the genuine spiritual teachings of The Way that Jesus taught, all will learn from the One Teacher. What is represented in these words is in fact a core concept in the foundation of all Gnostic theology.
The Teacher of Truth dwells in the Genuine Fellowship or Assembly (Church) -- and it is via this Spiritual Fellowship where all things are revealed to the Set Apart Believer where the promise of the Renewed Covenant is fulfilled: "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness but he will find the light of life for himself." (John 8:1).
In time, though, as the Gospel became infused with Paganism, and the True Jewish-Christian followers of Jesus were put to death or wiped out by time, believers could no longer enter Elohim’'s Tabernacle because the Spiritual Path known as The Way became obscured with Pagan dogma and conceptions of life, man and God. When the later Roman Church either removed, or supported biblical manuscripts that had the "falsifications of heretics" removed, when in fact these falsifications were often the most important verses of scripture, what remained was biblical manuscripts devoid of its original spiritual essence and keys.
When it is realized today that the scriptures were conceived in the Jewish-Christian bedrock of the original way of the Jerusalem Churchs, then we must also realize that when the Roman Church attempted to expunge all judaism and legalism from the texts, they in effect cut out the heart of the message, and what we have left today is a corpse devoid of spirit. In this respect: In the fourth century, when the alteration of the scriptures for doctrinal purification was at its height, and the scriptures of the Roman Church were advanced with the power of the sword, the true Jewish-Christians took to hiding and concealing their scriptures in the endeavor to preserve them, and halt their destruction.
As these collections of ancient scriptures are rarely recovered through archaeological discoveries, and through specific study of what we have, they continue to demonstrate the existence of an entirely different Christianity that is totally foreign to the Church that enlists under the name of “Christ” today. In fact, even with the documentation long possessed by the church today, it is easy to literally pull the proverbial rug right out from under the very foundation of modern Christian thought. In a surviving excerpts of what has been historically known as the Gospel According to the Hebrews, which was reported to be the "original version of Matthew" that was composed in the Hebrew/Aramaic language, of which our present day gospel is a Greek translation of, it was written: "If ye be in my bosom and do not the will of my Father which is in heaven, out of my bosom will I cast you away". In the late nineteenth century a library of scriptures was uncovered which is today known as the Oxyrhynchus Papyri -- wherein this verse is found reading: "Though ye be gathered together with me in my bosom, if ye do not my commandants, I will cast you forth".
This same verse of scripture is quoted in what is historically known as the 2nd Epistle of Clement, where it is written: "Let us, then, not only call Him Lord, for that will not save us. For He saith, 'Not every one that saith to me, Lord, Lord, shall be saved, but he that worketh righteousness' ... For this reason... the Lord hath said, 'Even though ye were gathered together to me in my very bosom, yet if ye were not to keep my commandments, I would cast you off, and say unto you, Depart from me; I know you not whence ye are, ye workers of iniquity".
It must be understood today that natural man who is possessed by sensual gratification and carnal thought, has no use for a spiritual religion that leads them along the path of transformation. Such men do not desire change -- but rather, a license to live in the manner they are accustomed to. Because they are like a drug addict, possessed by the thinking and material things of this world, their perception of religion is that of an insurance policy -- a means of obtaining immunity from the result of their actions. From their perception, the idea that if they do not hold fast to a series of commandments that restricted their very carnal manner of living, was simply unacceptable. Therefore, the solution to the problem was seen in the removal of the above very important concept taught by “Jesus” from the series of scriptures that was eventually passed down to the modern church.
From these verses it is easily seen that the present day doctrine of perpetual redemption, as well as the popular idea that once you profess that the Lord is you personal savior you are forever saved, is invalid from an early Christian perspective. It is easily demonstrated that the teachings of Jesus were not intended for the sinner to continue to wallow in the mire of sin -- but rather, for those who truly repented through change -- and the process of obeying our God’s Law and observing His Covenant with the True Believers in order to enter the Heavenly Kingdom. Clement, who was himself a disciple of the Disciple Peter, states that "...calling Him Lord... will not save us"!
The problem is seen in the fact that this message is totally contrary to what is being preached in the majority of our Evangelical churches today. It is quite common for the preacher to say to the congregation that all that is needed is to accept Jesus Christ as one's personal Lord and Savior, and you will be assured of your salvation. It is further commonly taught today that even those believers who fall away from the Gospel, and return to lives of sin, are said to remain saved, because they repeated the magic prayer. In defense of this position it will be said that man, “whose natural nature is sinful because of the fall of Adam”, is not saved by what he does, but solely by his faith in Jesus Christ. Yet, this earliest of Gospel tradition is at odds with the very concepts which Jesus actually taught. These verses which strongly convey the message that the believer is cast out of the bosom of The Messiah, were at one time in our scriptures, but were removed because they did not support the doctrine of perpetual redemption that was embraced by Constantine’s church.
It can be easily demonstrated that the first followers of Jesus continued to observe the Sabbath on the seventh day of the week in accordance with the scriptures. Constantine, who was a sun worshiper, changed the day of worship from the biblical Sabbath to the Pagan Sunday, or day of the Sun.
Doctrinally, this was removed by the Gentile church for two reasons -- i.e., because of its affirmation of the Sabbath as the day of the Lord; and also because it demonstrated Jesus’s ratification of the Law of Moses. In view of the fact that Christians today have no understanding at all with regard to the true spiritual meaning of the Sabbath, from the perspective of what Jesus taught, they would be deemed to be transgressors of the Law -- a Law that they fail to even realize they are under. In light of our current knowledge derived from open studies of the Jewish- Christians of the first centuries, there is good reason to assert that Jesus would call the modern believer a "transgressor of the law".
All Uncorrupted Sriptural Evidence Reveals that Jesus was imbued with the presence of the Ruach haKodesh when he was ritually immersed by John the Immerser -- in the manner that the original disciples and followers of Yehoshu believed. It has already been demonstrated through the witness of biblical experts that many verses of scripture were added to our Bibles in an attempt to confirm the doctrine of the Trinity. Knowing this fact should be of the greatest concern to modern Christians who would want to know what teachings of “Jesus” were removed because it was against the doctrine of the Trinity -- a doctrine that is native to the philosophy and religion of Plato and the Greek poets.
No one throughout Christian history has ever questioned the resurrection and the Sonship of “Jesus” -- though what has been questioned is when “Jesus” became the Messiah -- or Anointed One of YHWH -- as well as what it means to be the Anointed of YHWH. With regard to when these words were spoken, Christian history also tells us that these words were in fact said to “Jesus”: "Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee". The problem is that, with the exception of a footnote at the immersion of Jesus in the Revised Standard Version, these words are no longer contained in our Bibles today. What the footnote states is that many of the more ancient manuscripts read: "Today I have begotten thee", instead of "In thee I am well pleased" at Luke 3:22.
What, then, are the ramifications to Christians today? If this passage was again restored to its original form, we could possibly rewrite the Adam Clark Commentary this way: "IIf Jesus became the Son of God at his baptism, when the Holy Spirit descended upon him in the form of a dove and Anointed him (made him the Christ), "the whole Christian system is vain and baseless". Why? The answer is simple: If Jesus was born a man and he became the Messiah (or Anointed One) by performing YHWH's Law in accordance to His father’s Covenant, as the disciples and original Messianic Jewish followers taught directly by him proclaimed, then Christians must totally alter their position on an uncountable number of important points -- wherein, each of us would then look to Jesus as the pattern that we must follow.
The problem was that men like Martin Luther, who was himself a priest of the Roman Church, could not come to terms with the original beliefs of the Christian Church as expressed in these many passages of the Bible. What Luther was unable to deal with was the fact that when we begin to embrace even one original doctrine alone, our whole perspective of “New Testament” theology must be radically revised and altered. Mere faith and belief in a “Holy Man who fulfilled the Law and became the Anointed Son of God”, means nothing -- and confirms the words of Clement, the disciple of Peter, when he wrote that "...calling Him Lord... will not save us"!
If the soul of Jesus is of a like substance to our own -- and he is in fact the first of the prodigal sons to return to the Father -- and because he so performed the Law of his father that he virtually blazed the trail of what came to be called The Way -- thereby becoming the Divine Pattern for all mankind to follow -- then casual belief in the modernized ‘Jesus’ of today will not benefit us whatsoever.
The concept and argument that the bible is "infallible" is a blatant lie. The "bible" is a creation of corrupt men, by corrupt men, to continue to corrupt other men. The only "book" that is infallible is the Hebrew Torah and the Tanakh, the actual Hebrew Word of YHWH. We know this because that is what Jesus professed and those are what Jesus taught from.
In view of these facts, Christians today have no other choice than to ask the question: Did our God protect all these different scriptures from being altered and corrupted by the forces of darkness, or did God insure that sufficient evidence remained to point the truly faithful believer towards the place in spirit where the Genuine Scriptures are beyond the reach of the enemies of the original followers? In answering this crucial and all-important question, the facts regarding the corruption of the scriptures are there for you to see -- and our very own Bibles have been used to demonstrate the corruption of the biblical text. If you choose, then, to ignore all the extra-biblical proofs provided, you cannot close your eyes to the truth, because every Bible you pick up today contains the same mark of corruption. Moreover, any reasonable person would immediately question the authenticity of these scriptures that were handed down to the present flock of believers by a very corrupt Pagan Roman Church. Knowing this to be a fact, only those who either want to be deceived, or are totally under the power of discarnate spirits, will continue to maintain that our Bibles today have not been corrupted.
If you truly believe that the Bible is the word of Elohim, then it is the word of Elohim that is attempting to reach out to you this very day and open your mind to the reality of the situation. The very Bibles you hold in your hand are speaking out to you and saying: "The hands of ruthless and evil men of the past has corrupted my message from the pure meaning of the Word". Heed the words of the Messiah, and seek a genuine knowledge -- a knowledge that can only be received directly from the True Prophet.
What is also important for the modern believer to acknowledge is that this flagrant corruption of the Word is demonstrated in a teaching that the Messiah warned is absolutely necessary for each of us to become -- i.e., a little one -- one of his genuine followers, in order to enter the Kingdom of heaven. From the perspective of the revelation of the Word and the absolute necessity of being in the world and not of it, what has been demonstrated is that this all-important teaching about the little ones, and the many other such corruptions, are all a part of the tares that The Deceiver has sown among the Word of YHWH. This warning is presented in the scriptures in the words of the Lord when he said: "But while men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed tares also among the wheat, and went away" (Matt 13:25 NAS). What, then, should the modern believer do? This also is found in the scriptures where The Messiah said: "First gather up the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them up; but gather the wheat into my barn" (Matt 13:30 NAS).
So long as we remain in denial, we continue to provide The Deceiver with the ability to maintain control over our lives. Being faithful to Jesus does not mean that we should blindly believe the opinions expressed by other men -- especially when those men are evil. While it is true that there is no amount of evidence that will alter the position of many who believe that the Bible, as it exists today, is the pure word of “God”. Being a true Set Apart Believer, though, means that if we truly desire to know the Truth of the matter, we have it within our ability to transcend the error of this world, and learn the Truth directly from the True Prophet that is spoken of by Matthew and John.
Astonishingly, the story isn't even that simple: for the Catholic church centered in Rome never had any extensive control over the Eastern churches, which were in turn divided even among themselves, with Ethiopian and Coptic and Syrian and Byzantine and Armenian canons all riding side-by-side with each other and with the Western Catholic canon, which itself was never perfectly settled until the 15th century at the earliest, although it was essentially established by the middle of the 4th century. All of these flavors of christianity have one thing in common however, ignoring what they call 'the Primitive Church' and it's doctrine. Instead preferring to place their establishment with their own origins allowing the christian bible to be their founding document as opposed to the establishment of the Jewish-Christian 'Jerusalem Church' and it's original Jerusalem Jesus Movement which flourished within Judaism even in Ancient Egypt, Syria, and Greek Asia.
Indeed, the current Catholic Bible is largely accepted as canonical from historical fatigue: the details are so ancient and convoluted that it is easier to simply accept an ancient and enduring tradition than to bother actually questioning its merit. This is further secured by the fact that the long habit of time has dictated the status of the texts: favored books have been more scrupulously preserved and survive in more copies than unfavored books, such that even if some unfavored books should happen to be earlier and more authoritative, in many cases we are no longer able to reconstruct them with any accuracy.
I. Early Development
It is believed that Jesus died c. 30 A.D. Specifically, if he died under Pontius Pilate, the date must have at least been between 26 and 36, the ten years we know Pilate to have served in Judaea. Whatever the date, Paul's conversion follows one to three years later. The earliest known Christian writings are the epistles of Paul, composed between 48 and 58 A.D. Some of these are of doubted authenticity (and were even in antiquity), but the debate is too complex to summarize here. The other letters, and the Revelation (a.k.a. the Apocalypse of John), are of even more uncertain authorship and date. They are presumed to have been written in the same period or later (1 Peter, for instance, may have been written, some scholars say, as late as 110 A.D.).
The Gospels cannot really be dated, nor are the real authors known. Their names were assigned early, but not early enough for us to be confident they were accurately known. It is based on speculation that Mark was the first, written between 60 and 70 A.D., Matthew second, between 70 and 80 A.D., Luke (and Acts) third, between 80 and 90 A.D., and John last, between 90 and 100 A.D. Scholars advance various other dates for each work, and the total range of possible dates runs from the 50's to the early 100's, but all dates are conjectural. It is supposed that the Gospels did not exist before 58 simply because neither Paul nor any other epistle writer mentions or quotes them, and this is a reasonable argument as far as things go. On the other hand, Mark is presumed earlier, and the others later, because Mark is simpler, and at least Matthew and Luke appear to borrow material from him (material that is likely his own invention, cf. my review of The Homeric Epics and the Gospel of Mark).
All the Gospels except John contain possible allusions to the destruction of Jerusalem, which was destroyed by the Romans in 70 A.D., and thus it is likely they were all written after that date. But that assumes the statements attributed to Jesus are apocryphal--they may have been genuine, the usual doom and gloom apocalyptic fantasizing, and then confirmed only by accident (or, if one is a believer, divine destiny) when the city and its temple were actually destroyed. They could also have been added to the text later. On the other hand, it has been argued with some merit that Luke borrowed material from Josephus, and if so that would date his Gospel (and Acts) after 94 A.D. Finally, there are good arguments for the existence of a lost source-text called Q which was used by Matthew and Luke to supplement their borrowing from Mark, and this has been speculatively dated as early as the 50's A.D.
This is only an example of the state of ignorance we are in whenever scholars try to debate the dates of these writings. Although it remains possible that all the Gospels were written after 100, those rare scholars who try to place all Christian writings in the 2nd century have nothing to base such a position on. At least some of Paul's epistles can be reasonably taken as dating no more than 16 to 32 years after the oral tradition had begun to flourish after the death of Jesus, although adulteration of those letters by later editors remains possible, and it is also possible that even in Paul's day forgeries were being made and circulated (2 Thessalonians 2:2). The Gospels were not likely to have been written down so soon, and we have clear evidence, in numerous variations, that they were altered at various points in their transmission, and scholarly work in the last two centuries has gone far to get us to the earliest versions possible.
Nevertheless, any number of unknown alterations could still have been made that have not been detected (a great many have been--both errors and deliberate alterations or omissions), and it is important to note that the ancients did not have at one glance the scope of manuscript data we have, nor did they (with a few exceptions) even have the analytical and palaeographical skills now employed to derive a reliable manuscript archetype from a scientific collation of numerous exemplars. In other words, no one in antiquity ever saw a completely accurate collection of what would eventually become the 27 New Testament books, until perhaps the time of Origen or Clement of Alexandria (see XII and XIV), and even then most likely only those few scholars would have enjoyed the privilege. But this is still doubtful--it does not appear that either man went out of his way to find and trace the history of all existing manuscripts, in all churches, and in all translations, yet that is what would have been required to decisively collate a close approximation to the original texts.
II. Ambiguous Pre-Canonical References
The first Christian text that did not become canonized but was respected as authentic is the first epistle of Clement of Rome, reasonably dated to 95 A.D., and contained in many ancient Bibles and frequently read and regarded as scripture in many churches. This is relevant because even at this late date two things are observed: Clement never refers to any Gospel, but frequently refers to various epistles of Paul. Yet he calls them wise counsel, not scripture--he reserves this authority for the "Old Testament", which he cites over a hundred times. On a few occasions he quotes Jesus, without referring to any written source. But his quotations do not correspond to anything in any known written text, although they resemble sayings in the Gospels close enough to have derived from the same oral tradition. This suggests that the Gospels were not known to Clement. Yet he was a prominent leader of the Church in Rome. If they had been written by then, they must have not made it to Rome before 95. It is possible that they had not been written at all. In the case of Mark, for example, it is often thought that he was writing for an audience in Rome, thus it is most remarkable that Clement would not know of this, supposedly the earliest, Gospel. But it is also possible that he simply chose not to quote Mark, though knew the book--although why he would ignore Mark (even in his quotations of Jesus) and yet refer to numerous epistles of Paul is difficult to explain.
The next such text is the collection of letters by Ignatius. However, these were added to and redacted in later centuries, making the reliability of even the "authentic" letters uncertain. Ignatius wrote while on the road to his trial in 110 A.D. and it is important to note that he appears not to have had references with him, thus any allusions or quotations in his work come from memory alone. Thus, he borrows phrases and paraphrases from many Pauline epistles, yet never tells us this is what he is doing (he probably could not recall which letters he was drawing from at the time). Likewise, he borrows phrases or ideas which are found in Matthew and John, and on one occasion something that appears to be from Luke, but again he never names his sources or even tells us that he is drawing from a source at all. In no case does he name or precisely quote any "New Testament" book, but again this may be due to the unusual circumstances in which he was writing.
Despite the difficulties, it seems plausible that the Gospels had been written by this date, although it is remotely possible that Ignatius is simply quoting oral traditions which eventually became recorded in writing, and also possible that this material was added or dressed up by later editors. Of greatest note is that in his letter to the Philadelphians, Ignatius recounts a debate he held with Judaizing Christians in which it is clear that only the OT was regarded as an authority. Instead of referring to any NT writings as evidence, he simply says that Jesus Christ is the witness to the authority of the tradition. This suggests that none of the NT was regarded even then as an authority. Like Clement, Ignatius and other Christians probably regarded these texts as wise counsel or useful collections of their oral traditions, and not as "scripture" per se.
Next comes the Didakhê (did-a-KAY), a manual of Christianity, which cannot be certainly dated, though it is believed to follow 110. Some scholars have weakly tried to place it much earlier, even to the time of Paul --others have proposed a much later date for the existing text, as late as the 4th century (though it existed in some form without a doubt before the 3rd century). Its detailed account of a church hierarchy and rituals and the text's unusual organization into "The Way of Life" and "The Way of Death," among other details, likely suggest a 2nd century date. It does not name any written sources, but quotes exactly the Gospel of Matthew as just the "Gospel" of Jesus. No references are made which show any clear connection with the epistles, but the OT is quoted a few times. It is worth noting that the book attributes its ultimate source to unnamed itinerant evangelists, showing that anonymous oral tradition was still king when the Didakhê was written. It is also worth noting that this text was regarded as canonical scripture by Clement of Alexandria and Origen, and perhaps in the Egyptian churches for quite some time.
Unfortunately, we cannot date this text well enough for it to be helpful, and the same problem is faced by the Epistle of Barnabas, which cites many OT books by name and uses many phrases which appear in the Gospels, but never names any NT book--and the allusions are of the sort that could merely reflect common oral traditions. The date of this letter is unknown and could be anywhere from 70 to 130 A.D. (Barnabas was supposedly a companion of Paul), and it was for a long time actually a part of the NT canon itself, appearing at the end of the oldest surviving complete Bible, the Codex Sinaiticus (transcribed in the 4th century A.D., possibly based on a text produced by imperial commission).
III. Clear Pre-Canonical References
The first author who shows a more concerted interest in textual sources is Papias. We do not know when he wrote, but presumably it was between 110 and 140, and most likely 130 or later. What he wrote has not survived, apart from fragmentary quotations in other works of his "Expositions of the Sayings of the Lord" which purported to be a collection of things he had actually heard said by the students of elders who claimed to have known the first disciples (yes, this sounds a lot like "a friend of a friend of a friend"), since he specifically regarded this as more useful than anything written, according to a quotation of his preface by Eusebius (History of the Church, 3.39.4), where Papias says "I did not think that information from books would help me so much as the utterances of a living and surviving voice". Thus, Papias reveals the early pre-christian (i.e. original Jewish-Christian Jerusalem Church) preference for oral rather than written tradition. It was only in the later 2nd century that this preference began to change. Other quotations of his work show how destructive this 'preference for oral tradition' was, since Papias apparently recorded the most outlandish claims as if they were true, such as the fact that Judas' head bloated to greater than the width of a wagon trail and his eyes were lost in the flesh, and that the place where he died maintained a stench so bad that no one, even to his own day, would go near it (from book 4 of the Expositions, quoted by Apollinaris of Laodicea).
Of note in the surviving quotations of this same work are his claims about the writing of Mark and Matthew. The latter, he claimed, was a collection by Matthew of the sayings of Jesus in Hebrew, which several others had translated "as best they could". This is the origin of the belief that the Gospel of Matthew was originally written in Hebrew, but there are three points against such a belief. First, we have seen that Papias is hugely unreliable. Second, he is not describing a Gospel at all, but a collection of sayings. He is thus describing some other book now lost (some have suggested it was the Q document), or that had never existed in the first place. Third, it is distinctly possible, since the text is vague, that instead of the "Hebrew sayings of Jesus" this book contained the "Hebrew (i.e. OT) prophecies about Jesus," which curiously fits the fact that the Gospel of Matthew is the one to include many of these prophetic claims and allusions. Moreover, the word for "translated" may mean "interpreted," in which case what Papias is describing is perhaps an early Matthew containing a bare collection of OT prophecies, from which were drawn a few by the later author of the Gospel of Matthew, who had done his own "interpreting" of how they applied to Jesus. But this is speculative. At any rate, Papias only hints at a possible name for a possible Gospel author. And this reference is most likely to a different, now lost, work. This remark of Papias thus could have become an inspiration for naming a certain Gospel after the same man. So this is not entirely helpful.
Papias's account of Mark is stranger still. He says Mark was Peter's secretary (perhaps getting the idea from 1 Peter 5.13), and though he had never known Jesus, he followed Peter around and recorded everything he said, leaving nothing out and changing no details. However, he did not "set in order" the sayings of Jesus. It is hard to tell what he means, but scholars see in his account a growing apologetic in defense of Mark: Mark was regarded as unreliable because he did not know Jesus, and he was attacked for being incomplete and disorderly, and so on, so Papias defends him by putting him in the entourage of Peter and asserting that he faithfully recorded what Peter said, and so on. What is evident is that this, the first historical thinking about Christian literary traditions, shows a possible corruption of reliability by oral transmission and a readiness to engage in apologetic distortions. This does not create much confidence in later reports, and raises the real possibility that other claims to authority are rhetorical rather than genuine (such as that made in the closing paragraphs of the Gospel of John). But at least we now discover (perhaps), between 110 to 140 A.D., the first definite name of a Gospel author: Mark. There is one outstanding problem for these references to Mark and Matthew in Papias: they appear only in Eusebius, who is notorious for reporting (if not creating) forgeries. We cannot establish whether this has happened in this case, but there must always remain a pall of suspicion. Even if accurate, there is another side of the story: the situation evident in Papias is that there is little regard for any written Gospels, in contrast with nearly complete faith in oral tradition, with little critical thought being applied. More importantly, the context seems to be one where there were perhaps no set written Gospels in his day, but an array of variously-worked texts. And this picture is somewhat confirmed by the remarkable discovery of fragments dated c. 130-180 A.D. from a lost synoptic Gospel, the composition of which has been dated "not later than A.D. 110-30". In this text, there are echoes from all four Gospels, but also miracles and sayings of Jesus found nowhere else, and it appears the author was working not from textual sources but from memory, and composing freely in his own style (M 168). It is likely that this, in part, is how all the Gospels were written. Moreover, it is possible that the canonical Gospels did not achieve their final (near-present) form until during or shortly after the time of Papias.
In the same period, Polycarp wrote a letter which cites "Jesus" for certain sayings a hundred times, and the sayings match closely those appearing in the Gospels (and even things written in numerous Epistles, which were not originally attributed to Jesus), but he does not name any sources. We see the authority of oral tradition is again elevated above the written--like all the previous authors, no NT text is called scripture, though many OT texts are, and the only cited source for NT information is the report of 'unnamed' evangelists (Epistle of Polycarp, 4.3). However, a sign of a change lies in the very purpose of the letter: it is a preface to a collection of letters by Ignatius which another church had requested be copied and sent on to them. The interest in written documents is thus rising among Christian congregations in this period (unfortunately, this could also be a source of interpolated Gospel quotations in Ignatius). And so it is in this milieu, between 138 and 147 A.D., that the first philosophical defense of Christianity addressed to an Emperor (Antoninus Pius) appears, written by Aristides of Athens, in which there was vaguely mentioned "what [the Christians] call the holy Gospel writing" which is alleged to be powerful in its effect on readers.
As all this is going on, however, one of the first written texts to become universally popular and an object of praise among Christians is none other than the book of Hermas, a.k.a. "The Shepherd," an unusual (to us) collection of "visions, mandates, and similitudes" (the names of the three books that comprise it). This was written at some time in the 2nd century, and we have papyrus fragments from that very century to prove it. It may date even from the 1st century, but references inside and outside the text create likely dates ranging from 95 to 154 A.D. (both Origen and Jerome thought the author was the very Hermas known to Paul, i.e. Romans 16.14), but it is probably more likely later than earlier in that range.
So popular the Shepherd was that it was widely regarded as inspired--it was actually included, along with the Epistle of Barnabas, as the final book in the oldest NT codex that survives intact, the Codex Sinaiticus (300 A.D.). But even the book of Hermas never names or quotes exactly any NT text. It contains many statements which resemble those in various NT books, but this could just as well reflect a common oral tradition. It is noteworthy that the only book actually named by Hermas is an apocryphal Jewish text, the Book of Eldad and Modat. In contrast, it is notable that none of the Gospels or canonical Epistles ever name any book of any kind apart from Jude--which cites another apocryphal text, the Book of Enoch.
IV. The Need to Canonize
In all the texts examined so far, the only recognized authority is "Jesus Christ" as related orally by unnamed evangelists, and not any written text apart from the OT. It is always "the Gospel" and never any particular Gospel. In such a state of affairs, it is no wonder that Gnostic and other heresies could grow in a century of transmission where NT writings were of little account in contrast with oral authority. And it was ultimately because of this problem that opponents of Gnostic and other sects had to find writings which could plausibly be advanced as authentic but which did not support Gnostic or "heretical" teachings. Thus, the group that decided which texts would be heretical was that which had the most vested interest in such a project: the most powerful leaders of the various churches whose authority was being challenged. It should not be forgotten however that the challengers were also leaders of their own churches.
The second point that this presses upon us is that since the drive to find canonical written texts was created by the need to refute heretics, anti-heretical and other rhetoric influenced both the selection of texts as well as the editing or writing of the texts themselves. And so far, as of about 130 A.D., we have no clear evidence of any complete, much less named, written Gospel, although it seems some of the Epistles were widely circulated. Although we have seen a few exact quotations from the Gospel of Matthew, for instance, this in no way establishes that these sentences came from what we now know as that Gospel, since anything could have been added, removed, or altered to suit the needs of the various churches engaged in this ideological propaganda war. Even according to Eusebius, Bishop Dionysius of Corinth wrote some time in the reign of Marcus Aurelius (161-180 A.D.) that "the devil's apostles have filled" his own epistles "with tares, taking away some things and adding others," and he concludes revealingly, "small wonder, then, if some have dared to tamper even with the word of the Lord Himself" (History of the Church 4.23).
Once we start to find writings (late 2nd century papyri are our earliest sources), then the ability to alter the tradition becomes increasingly more difficult, but not impossible. It is only by the 3rd century that this becomes all but impossible as thousands of copies and dozens of translations were in circulation, all derived from the texts selected in the middle of the 2nd century by the church that won the propaganda war. This is all the more real given that almost all the non-canonical Gospels that survive are the scores which were buried in 400 A.D. at Nag Hammadi--thus, we cannot know if this is representative of any such texts that could have been written in the 1st or 2nd century, so we do not know if there were other, now lost Gospels just as old as those in the NT. We may never know.
V. The Gnostics Make the First Move
Around 135 the Gnostic Basilides composed a mighty treatise called the Exigetica which, judging from quotes by critics, contained lengthy exegesis on Gospel stories like the Sermon on the Mount and the Rich Man and Lazarus. We do not know if he was drawing on any actual Gospels, or oral tradition. Nevertheless, the attack was underway: whoever disagreed with him had to respond in kind, with their own texts, and somehow win the resulting propaganda war. For this purpose the New Testament was all but born. And in addition to this was the political need for a scapegoat: pressure against Christians by the Roman authorities prompted many to criticise other Christian sects with the general theme "they are the bad Christians, but we are the good ones, so you should punish them instead." Thus, pro-Roman elements, and the absence of anti-Roman features, were a precondition for the canonic texts of any church with a chance of success, and this also affected the formation of the surviving canon--and, incidentally, given the tense relations between Rome and the Jews, antisemitic features would also win Roman favor and release the Christians from Roman hostility toward Jews, although one could not take this pandering too far in a church largely comprised of Jews or their descendants.
In 144 A.D., Marcion proposed a reform of Christianity for which the church leaders expelled him merely for suggesting: that the OT was contradictory and barbaric and that the true Gospel was not at all Jewish, but that Jewish ideas had been imported into NT texts by interpolators, and only Paul's teachings are true. Moreover, he rejected the idea that Jesus was flesh, and the idea of Hell. But what is significant for us is that this implies a recognition of "texts" as being authoritative. Expelled, Marcion started his own church and was the first to clearly establish a canon, consisting of ten of the Epistles and one Gospel, which Tertullian decades later identified as the Gospel of Luke, though stripped of "unacceptable features" such as the nativity, OT references, etc. Yet Tertullian attacks Marcion for not having named the author of the book, but simply calling it "the Gospel" (Against Marcion 4.2), even though everyone had been doing just the same thing before him. Thus it is possible, if not likely, that by 144 A.D. the Gospel of Luke had not yet received its name. We have already seen how around 130 A.D. Papias perhaps names Mark so as to defend its authority, and alludes to a text by Matthew which could have inspired naming another Gospel after him, the one which seemed to rely most on OT prophecies. Thus, the very need to assert authority is perhaps compelling church leaders to give names to the Gospel authors sometime between 110 A.D. and 150 A.D., in order that the authority of certain Gospels can be established.
Marcion's canon influenced the final canon of the Church. His prefaces to the letters of Paul that he thought authentic were even retained in several versions of the Latin Vulgate Bible, and many of his proposed emendations of these letters and the Gospel of Luke have turned up in numerous surviving manuscripts, showing that his legacy was intimately integrated at various levels throughout the surviving Church, affecting the transmission as well as the selection of the final canonical texts.
The next stage in this process was also spurred by the "heresy" of Montanism in 156 A.D., an apocalyptic, grass-roots church movement of "inspiration" and speaking in tongues very reminiscent of revivalist "the end is nigh" movements that arise still to this day, especially in its popular anti-clerical attitudes, and its appeal to non-elites by admitting women into the leadership. This movement persisted long enough to win over Tertullian in 206 A.D., even though the congregations were cut off from the church as demon-inspired. But this push back to personal revelation among the non-elites drove the elites to seek a decisive written text to counter it and maintain control of doctrine. Consequently, we find the first reference to the term "New Testament" (kainê diathêkê) in an anti-Montanist treatise (written by an unknown author in 192 A.D., quoted by Eusebius, History of the Church 5.16.2). This controversy also led to a long-standing hesitancy to canonize the Revelation, which was associated with a Montanist emphasis on personal apocalyptic visions, and was perhaps a little too anti-Roman to be safely approved.
VI. The Old Testament Canon
Here I will pause briefly to describe how the OT canon was established, since this process had occurred before the NT canon was even an idea, and though it went on largely independent of Christianity, it may have had an influence. Certainly, since the Bible is generally taken today as a whole, how the books of the OT were chosen is a relevant topic. Evidence points to the completion of the OT canon by a Synod at Jabneh (or Jamnia) between 90 and 100 A.D., where an assembly of rabbis decided which books of the Ketuvim were to be regarded as genuine. Although there was no effective hierarchical organization to enforce adherence, by the following century the decision of this council came to be accepted by all parties, including the Christians. But the Ketuvim only consists of all books that are not prophetic or part of the Torah (the Pentateuch), although Daniel was accepted in this collection, having been rejected among the prophetic books.
The Torah had already been canonized in some form possibly as early as 622 B.C.E. (when the true Torah was "discovered" and ceremoniously declared official by King Josiah, according to the Bible itself), though it was most likely significantly edited after the Babylonian Exile in the time of Ezra c. 500 B.C.E. The surest decision was made in the 2nd century B.C.E. when the Septuagint, an "official" Greek translation, was made of it by a council of seventy Jewish scholars in Alexandria.
The prophets, not including Daniel (which did not become part of the Hebrew canon until the synod of Jabneh, and then only as part of the Ketuvim), appear to have been "canonized" by tradition alone sometime before the 4th century B.C.E., we don't know when or how. And to all this the Christians appear to have added certain Apocrypha, although, since all Greek versions remaining are Christian, we cannot tell if any of these books had been accepted by the Alexandrian synod or were inserted later by Christians. It should be noted that the Samaritans rejected all the books of the Bible except the Torah. We know that Christians adopted the Jewish ruling on the OT canon, from a letter of Melito, bishop of Sardis (in Lydia) in the reign of Marcus Aurelius (161-180 A.D.), where he explicitly states that, to establish which OT books were authoritative, he went to Palestine and inquired among the Hebrews (Eusebius, History of the Church 4.26.13). Nevertheless, there remained numerous "apocryphal" OT books that Christians variously accepted or rejected, some still in some Bibles even to the present day (such as I and II Maccabees, Ecclesiasticus, the Book of Wisdom, among others). This essay does not discuss the Christian canonization of the OT in any detail, but more can be learned from Gerald Larue's chapter on this subject.
VII. Other Canons
Connected with this process was the canonization of the Talmud, which began in 200 A.D. with the first "authoritative" written edition of the Mishnah being established by Rabbi Judah ha-Nasi, presumably from oral traditions. Though not part of the Bible, the very fact that a canonical set of Talmudic texts was being sought at this time also suggests a possible influence upon the Christians to do the same with their writings, as does the very different move to canonization made by the Roman jurist Ulpian around the same date, who sought to martial all the past legal decisions of prominent jurists for the last few centuries and edit them into a single authoritative text. This latter process had already been begun by the Emperor Hadrian when he asked the jurist Julian to write a final, authoritative Praetorian Edict which defined many basic laws and legal procedures of Rome, and made them unchangeable by future praetors, and this was enacted by the Senate on 131 A.D. Other related trends in literature date back to the great beginnings of the library at Alexandria, where "canons" of authoritative texts were established for various Classical authors, including especially Homer, from 285 B.C. onward. This is in fact where the word was established with such a meaning, after being adopted from its use in philosophy to mean "method," "measure" or "standard." Likewise, magical writings were canonized in some fashion around 199 A.D., and similar attempts to establish the authoritative writings of Plato, Aristotle and later Plutarch, among several other authors, were also afoot in the very time that the Christians began thinking about doing the same.
VIII. Justin Martyr
Justin Martyr of Rome composed his first Apology to an emperor in 150 A.D., the second around 161 A.D. (scholars continue to debate whether there were really two, whether the two we have were originally those two, or only one of them that was later split up, and so on). He also wrote a Dialogue with Trypho [the Jew] which relates what purports to be a debate held around 135 A.D. In the first of these works, Justin describes "Memoirs of the Apostles" (borrowing consciously from the idea of Xenophon's "Memoirs of Socrates") which he says are called Gospels (1st Apology 66.3). He quotes Luke, Matthew and Mark, and uses distinctly Johanine theology, which accords to a great deal with the Judaized Neoplatonism of Philo the Jew, who wrote c. 40 A.D.
Justin calls Mark the "Memoirs of Peter", perhaps influenced by Papias (or both are following a common oral tradition). Justin also tells us that services were conducted by reading from these books, followed by a sermon, then communal prayer (1st Apology 67.3-5), demonstrating the rising interest in and use of written texts in the churches. Justin's choice of Gospels could have been influenced by his location (Rome) or some other preferences unknown to us, but it is a crucial consideration because the first "orthodox" canon is devised by Justin's pupil, Tatian, who would thus have favored the choices of the man who had converted and instructed him. Finally, Justin quotes a lot of additional oral tradition outside these Gospels, including the belief that Jesus was born in a cave outside Bethlehem (Dialogue with Trypho 78.5). He also refers to the Revelation to John, but never mentions or quotes any Epistles.
Curiously, the first "orthodox" Christian move toward canonization begins outside the Roman Empire, in the Syrian church. Moreover, this canon was ultimately not in Greek, but was a Syrian translation. The single man responsible is Tatian, who was converted to Christianity by Justin Martyr on a visit to Rome around 150 A.D. and, after much instruction, returned to Syria in 172 to reform the church there, banning the use of wine, the eating of meat, and marriage. At some point in all this (it is suggested c. 160 A.D.) he selected four Gospels (the four we now know as the canon, and which no doubt supported his own ideology and that of his tutor, Justin) and composed a single harmonized "Gospel" by weaving them together, mainly following the chronology of John. This is called the Diatessaron ("That Which is Through the Four") and it became for a long time the official Gospel text of the Syraic church, centered in Edessa. The Syriac Doctrine of Addai (c. 400 A.D.) claims to record the oldest traditions of the Syrian church, and among these is the establishment of a canon: members of the church are to read only the Gospel (meaning the Diatessaron of Tatian), the Epistles of Paul (which are said to have been sent by Peter, from Rome), and the Book of Acts (which is said to have been sent by John the son of Zebedee, from Ephesus), and nothing else. This tradition is traced back to Tatian.
Unfortunately we lack any complete versions of this, the first Christian canon outside of the Gnostic tradition (see XVIII). We do not know which Epistles he accepted as authentic, yet we know he rejected some (Jerome, "On Titus,"), including 1 Timothy because it allowed the taking of wine, meat, and marriage. Other references allow us to guess at some of those he thought authentic. But of the original Diatessaron we only have one fragment and a few quotations, although the fragment is very close to the original--within eighty years. The fragment matches the narrative just after the crucifixion and just before the body of Jesus is taken down, with verses mainly from the three synoptic Gospels, and one from John. However, in other quotations of the Diatessaron (and in late copies in Syriac and Armenian, which are not securely reliable) there are phrases which seem to come from other sources, such as the Gospel of Hebrews and the Protoevangelium of James, suggesting that the four Gospels at that time may have contained verses now missing or altered. The only complete work of Tatian's that survives is his "Oration to the Greeks" which is a scathing attack on Greek culture. We know he wrote books prolifically on a number of other topics. He was probably the first Christian to do so, apart from Justin.
What is significant is that it is shortly after Tatian and Justin's contributions that we discover the first instance of organized action against authors of new Christian source-texts. Although such action is necessary for there to be any hope of control over a reliable textual tradition in a milieu of wanton invention and combative propaganda, the fact that it only begins at such a late date is another blow against those who set their hopes on having complete confidence in the present canon. It means that a century of prolific writing went largely unchecked before the church took any concerted action to stop it. This first case is reported by Tertullian (On Baptism, 17): the story goes that a well-meaning priest in Asia Minor wrote the Acts of Paul to honor the Apostle, sometime around 170 A.D. He was brought before a church council, convicted of falsification, and removed from office. Nevertheless, though universally condemned by church leaders, it remained lastingly popular among educated church laymen, and one section of this text remains a part of the Armenian Bible to this day. But disturbingly, Tertullian attacks the book primarily because it depicts a woman (Thecla, a disciple of Paul) preaching and administering baptism. Thus, as we will see more than once, doctrine, not objective concern for history, loomed large behind the charge of falsification--so we are faced with uncertainties all over again. Indeed, Tertullian, as a hostile witness set on abolishing the text, might not be telling us the truth about its author or date of origin. This is all too likely, since there are indications that Tertullian was not an honest man (see XV).
It must also be noted that our evidence for church reactions to texts is incredibly scarce. For there were books that were extant in the 2nd century yet never mentioned and thus entirely unknown until recovered in more recent times. How many other Christian writings are we completely ignorant of? For instance, traces of a forged Epistle survive in the Coptic (Egyptian) and Ethiopian manuscript traditions: the almost ridiculous Epistle of the Apostles, a semi-apocalyptic text written by the "eleven disciples" after the resurrection "to the churches of the East and the West, the North and the South", even though there could not have been any such churches at that time. This text has been plausibly dated to c. 180 A.D. (it does fit the mystical orthodoxy of Irenaeus), and even earlier than 120 A.D. by some scholars. It is too derivative and fantastic in my opinion to come so early, but redaction evidence points strongly to a middle date: the End Times is placed at 120 years after the Resurrection in one redaction, and this was altered to 150 years in another--a possible sign that the text was written shortly before 150 and then amended when the End did not come. Yet no extant Christian writer even took notice of this book--not even to denounce it. As another example, we have already discussed above the "lost synoptic Gospel" recovered in a 2nd century papyrus fragment.
X. Theophilus and Serapion
Near Tatian's Syrian church, but across the border in Roman territory (and amidst a decidedly Greek culture) flourished bishop Theophilus at Antioch, around 180 A.D. Theophilus is important for a variety of reasons: he was the second, very shortly after Athenagoras (below), to explicitly mention the Trinity (Ad Autolycum 2.15); he may have composed his own harmony and commentary on the four Gospels chosen by Tatian; and he wrote books against Marcion and other heretics. He is also a window into the thinking of converts: he was converted by the predictions concerning Jesus in the OT (Ad Autolycum 1.14), perhaps the weakest grounds for conversion. But most of all, he routinely treats Tatian's Gospels as holy scripture, divinely inspired, on par with the Hebrew prophets. He also refers to John's Revelation as authoritative.
Theophilus' successor, Serapion, reveals the next stage in the process in 200 A.D. While touring churches in Asia he came upon a dispute in a village in Cilicia about whether the Gospel of Peter could be read in church. He tentatively agreed, but after reading it he closely instructed them not to use it anymore because it supported the Docetic heresy--the belief that Jesus only "seemed" to be a man, and was not really flesh --so he concluded on this ground alone that it was falsely ascribed to Peter. Thus, doctrine more than objective evidence of historicity was driving the selection of canonical texts. This despite the fact that this Gospel may have been written as early as 100-130 A.D., again if not earlier, although a later date is still possible, especially if the four canonical Gospels are likewise given later dates than usual, since Peter may have drawn on them.
Unfortunately, we do not know if this Gospel of Peter was the same as the surviving Gospel of that name, but if it is, Jürgen Denker has shown that, for instance, "almost every sentence in the passion narrative of this gospel was composed on the basis of Scriptural references in the Old Testament, particularly in Isaiah and the Psalms", which makes this text much more like what we would expect a Jewish messianic sect to compose, even more than what we find in the canonical Gospels, and this allows that Peter may in fact have preceded the canonical Gospels: we know that the Gnostics began canonization and reliance on writings first, and it is possible that "less Gnostic" texts (the present Gospels) were then created in response, even if by drawing on other, no longer surviving works. There really is no way to resolve this question. At best (or at worst, depending on your point of view), it remains only a faint possibility. If the Gospels are believed to date according to simplicity and lack of embellishment, then Peter must come later than the canonical four--but this method of dating texts is not always sure to be correct. Sometimes simpler redactions follow, rather than precede, the originals.
XI. Dionysius, Athenagoras and Irenaeus
In this same period we know these books were being doctored and battles were being fought over authenticity along ideological lines. In the letter from Dionysius cited earlier, where he informs his readers that even his own letters are being cut up and added to, he quotes the curse for such people in Revelation, which reveals that this sort of license was being exercised widely enough even when the Revelation was written that a curse had to be reserved for it (Rev. 22.18). He notes that this was being done even with the "scriptures of the Lord," thus recognizing certain NT books as scripture, but also that their integrity was being compromised at the very same time (and probably for the same reason). Dionysius is also notable for having tried to resolve doubts about the authenticity of the Apocalypse of John by ascribing it to a John other than the Apostle.
In 177 A.D. Athenagoras of Athens composed a lengthy philosophical Defense of the Christians addressed to the emperor Marcus Aurelius in which the first articulation of a theory of the Trinity appears. He quotes the OT and NT several times, but does not name his sources from the NT. The quotes or paraphrases that he uses happen to come from a few Epistles of Paul, and from all the Gospels in a mishmash, suggesting a harmonic source like the Diatessaron. But the respect that this defense, and others like it, earned among orthodox Christians contributed to forming decisions on canonicity based on whether they accorded with works like it.
Shortly after 177 A.D. Irenaeus was asked to compose an account of the persecutions in Lyons for the churches in Asia, and this letter is preserved by Eusebius (History of the Church 5.1ff.). This text quotes or paraphrases various NT books without naming them. Some years after this he composed a mighty treatise Against All Heresies and a Demonstration of the Apostolic Teaching. In these he quotes exactly almost every book of the NT, numerous times, demonstrating that the orthodox canon, though not established officially, was by this time generally accepted in practice. And in an account of the martyrs of Scillium (in Numidia, i.e Tunisia) who were tried in Carthage in 180 A.D., we find an overt mention of Christians carrying around "the books," including Paul's letters. Metzger reasons this as proof that Latin translations of the letters and Gospels existed by then, though this is a shaky argument at best.
However, Irenaeus, whose voice is as close to official as any of the time, has this to say about the selection of the four Tatian Gospels (which he calls "the four-form Gospel" or "one Gospel in four forms"):
It is not possible that the Gospels can be either more or fewer in number than they are, since there are four directions of the world in which we are, and four principal winds...the four living creatures [of Revelation 4.9] symbolize the four Gospels...and there were four principal covenants made with humanity, through Noah, Abraham, Moses, and Christ. (Against All Heresies 3.11.8)
Clearly, less than scholarly reasoning was affecting the canonization process (and Irenaeus' reasoning may reveal an earlier, more profound basis for the four Gospels: cf. Darek Barefoot, "The Riddle of the Four Faces: Solving an Ancient Mystery"). Moreover, Irenaeus includes the book of Hermas as holy scripture, a part of the NT (Against All Heresies 4.20.2).
XII. Pantaenus and Clement: the Seminary at Alexandria
The first Christian seminary was established in Alexandria around 180 A.D. by Pantaenus, whom Eusebius claims had found a Hebrew version of the Gospel of Matthew in India, or perhaps Ethiopia or Arabia. Although the story is not entirely vouched for even by Eusebius (he presents it only as something that "is said"), it no doubt contributed to the belief that Matthew had originally been composed in Hebrew. Pantaenus is also the first to defend the Epistle to the Hebrews as authentic (this had long been in dispute even by his time), on the argument that Paul wanted to compose it anonymously for that particular audience, and this opinion is generally carried as authoritative. Naturally, the formation of a 'school of Christian teaching' is a decisive moment in compelling the selection of a canon, if nothing else as a textbook, and fittingly for this task the next head of the school (in 190), Clement of Alexandria, represents the most scholarly Christian to date: in his surviving works, he cites other written sources about 8000 times, over 2500 of those citations being of works outside the Christian or Jewish tradition, the mark of a true scholar.
By about 200 A.D. we find from Clement's researches that he regarded the Tatian selection as being the primary source of the Gospel tradition, and that he believed that the chronological order of the books was Matthew and Luke, then Mark, and finally John, but he also acknowledged as authentic the Gospel of the Egyptians (not the same as the one recovered from Nag Hammadi, but still likely a Gnostic text), the Gospel of the Hebrews, and the Traditions of Matthias, as well as Hermas, the Epistle of Barnabas, the Apocalypse of Peter, and the Didakhe. But he also recorded certain additional oral traditions that he thought were authentic as well, including three sayings of Jesus that did not make it into any known written text (Stromata 1.28: 94.5, 158.2, and 177.2). The rest of his loose "canon" included the fourteen Pauline Epistles, Acts, 1 Peter, 1 John, and Revelation.
The Apocalypse of Peter is especially worth mentioning here. It was probably written between 125 and 150 A.D. and remained in various church lists as a canonical text for centuries. It gives detailed accounts--in the words of Jesus as he instructs Peter after the Resurrection--of signs of the End Times and then of the various kinds of punishments awaiting sinners in Hell, and the pleasures of Heaven. This text was not only popular and often treated as the genuine work of Peter (even by the very scholarly Clement), but its influence on the Christian religion as a whole is profound: this is the first text to introduce detailed pagan ideas of heaven and hell into Christian belief (drawing on Homer, Virgil, and Plato, as well as Orphic and Pythagorean traditions), and the popular view of these destinations, adopted and embellished by Dante centuries later, as in all Medieval art, is a direct outcome of this early Christian book and its widespread influence in the church for many centuries. What is of interest to us is that this book should have been regarded as obviously false, yet instead was generally received as genuine--its eventual omission from the canon was more the result of the fact that some church leaders did not want it read aloud (according to the Muratorian Canon), perhaps because its descriptions were so disturbing.
In addition, thanks to Clement, we know of a Gospel written some time in the first half of the 2nd century (if not earlier) that did not make it into the final canon despite having been held as canonical by Clement, and many others (including Jerome): the Gospel of the Hebrews. This was used as an authority in Syria even as late as the 4th century, and might have originally been composed in Aramaic. Though it only survives in a few quotations, we know it was only slightly shorter than the present Gospel of Matthew. It has some interesting features, such as Jesus calling the Holy Spirit his "mother." And it clearly presents James, not Peter, as the first to see Christ risen. In fact, James is depicted as having expected and anticipated the resurrection, even fasting until it should occur. If true, this is an excellent starting point for possible hallucinations of a risen Christ: deprivation and expectation. The loss of this text, and thus our inability to assess its merit, is another fact that greatly obscures any attempt to get at the historical truth behind the origins of Christianity.
Finally, Morton Smith discovered a very late copy of a certain letter by Clement which has something unusual to say about the Gospel of Mark. Though Smith's scholarship has been questioned, the find has been accepted as authentic. The letter asserts that there are three versions of Mark: a shorter one written in Rome based on Peter's teaching, a longer "more spiritual" (more Johanine?) one written in Alexandria by Mark after Peter's death, and a "secret" version left by Mark before he died, carrying on a tradition of Christian mysteries initiated by Peter. The last was supposedly smuggled out of the library at Alexandria and "corrupted" by the heretic Carpocrates between 100 and 125 A.D. Whether the letter is authentic or not, this betrays a problem for current scholars: secret traditions. To what extent were these lost, or incorporated in orthodox or heretical writings? Since secret traditions are the easiest to lose or corrupt, there may be a lot to the Christian creed in the 1st century that is lost to us today and that would, if found, radically change what we think about Jesus or the first evangelists and their beliefs. There may also be doctrines or sayings among the Gnostics which are authentic, but indistinguishable from others that are not.
XIII. The Muratorian Canon
The "Muratorian Canon," is a strange, badly written Latin list with brief comments on the books read in the church. It cannot be adequately dated, and arguments have ranged from late 2nd century to the 4th century. The earlier date is more likely, hence I am placing it here in my chronological account, although the manuscript tradition is clearly too poor to exclude alterations made over time. We don't know who wrote it, when, why, or whether it has been compromised over time, nor is it complete, and it is so badly written its meaning is unclear, as is the competence of its author and copyists. Most importantly, this text is never referred to by anyone, and would have remained thoroughly unknown if it had not been recovered in fairly recent times. Even Eusebius (below) shows no awareness of it. Thus, its influence, if any, on later decisions cannot be known.
The list begins with the four Gospels in their present order (the number is clear in the text, but Matthew and Mark can only be reasonably conjectured--the first line of the list is missing). It may have preserved the tradition that Mark was Peter's secretary (the second line implies parallels with remarks about this by Papias). But it clearly states the belief that Luke was a physician and Paul's secretary (based no doubt on Col. 4.14, Philem. 24, and 2 Tim. 4.11), and adds that John was written by the Apostle John and then reviewed and approved by all the other Apostles. It is notable that the author ascribes all he says about Luke to anonymous "received opinion" (ex opinione). The list also claims Hermas was written 'recently' (unfortunately we cannot trust that the author was correct about this), and is to be regarded highly and read privately but not held in the same esteem as the other books. The list also upholds, in addition to most of the Epistles (all but Hebrews, James, 1 and 2 Peter, and 3 John), the Apocalypse of John and also that of Peter (noting only that some didn't like it being read in church), and, strangely, the Book of Wisdom (which the list's author says was written by the friends of King Solomon). Curiously, it claims that Luke ends his Acts when Paul left him for Spain, and one wonders what happened to Paul if that was the case--and why we have none of his letters from that period of his life.
The list at relatively great length attacks Marcionism (a heresy of the mid-to-late 2nd century), and a few other early heresies (Montanism and the Valentinians), and may in fact represent an early attempt to counter the first Christian canon (that of Marcion) by declaring one opposed to it. Of particular note, it rejects a now-lost letter of Paul to the Alexandrians as a Marcionite forgery. If this document genuinely preserves orthodox sentiments late in the 2nd century, this confirms my general impression that the traditional canon was more or less established by then (perhaps under the influence of Justin and his pupil Tatian), that it was driven primarily by the need to oppose the heresy of Marcion and others, and it was brought about haphazardly, without any official vote or decision, and before any serious scholars (such as Clement or Origen) examined the case. Once such scholars finally faced the question, they were already bound by faith to a received tradition and creed, as well as by the need to remain orthodox members of the church at large, and thus were not likely to have been entirely objective, or to have had unbiased resources at hand.
XIV. Origen: the Seminary at Caesarea
In 203 A.D. Origen became head of the Christian seminary at the age of 18, a true prodigy. Due to a dispute with the bishop of Alexandria, Origen was expelled from that church and his post around 230 A.D., and he went and founded a second seminary at Caesarea which stole the spotlight from Alexandria. Origen is crucial in the tradition because he is known to have traveled widely, West and East, and was a voracious scholar and prodigious writer and commentator on the OT, NT and other texts. He is also exceptional in being a relatively skeptical scholar. Even though only a fraction of his works have survived, even those fill volumes. He completes what had already been going on by this point by declaring certain texts to be equally inspired alongside the OT and calling them, as a corpus, the "New Testament" (De Principiis 4.11-16).
Origen declared the Tatian four in 244 A.D. as the only trustworthy, inspired Gospels, simply because they are the only Gospels that no one "disputes" (Eusebius, Church History 6.25), although we have seen that these "disputes" were usually doctrinal in nature (for instance, Origen is not counting the opinion of men like Marcion with whom he disagrees doctrinally, cf. V), and the trust placed in the Tatian four was likely out of respect for the decisions of the first Christian scholars (Justin and his pupil Tatian). There is no sign that Origen was employing here any objective historical or textual criteria. Nevertheless, Origin also declares that the Gospel of Peter and the Book of James (the Protoevangelium Jacobi) are also trustworthy and approved by the church, and he puts some trust in the Gospel of the Hebrews, and even calls the book of Hermas "divinely inspired" (c. 244-6 A.D., Commentary on Romans 10.31). Like his tutor, Clement, he also includes the Didakhe and the Epistle of Barnabas as scripture (M 187). Yet he still passes on as authentic various oral traditions of the sayings of Jesus that are found nowhere else (M 137).
Origen doubts the authenticity of 2 (and 3) John and 2 Peter, and in 245 A.D. admits some doubts about the author, not the validity, of the Epistle to the Hebrews, suggesting that it may have been written by Luke or Clement of Rome, not Paul--and for this he uses the evidence of significant differences in style and quality of language; but Origen's tutor, Clement of Alexandria, suggested it was originally written by Paul in Hebrew and translated into Greek by Luke or Clement. Origen writes at length on the brother of Jesus but he never mentions the Epistles of James as being by him (Commentary on Matthew 2.17). It appears that, thanks to Origen's exhaustive scholarship (perhaps tinted slightly by the pressure to remain orthodox and exclude perceived heretics), and received tradition beginning with Tatian, the NT was almost entirely accepted in its present form by 250 A.D., and not much changed from its apparent form in 180, though nothing as yet was 'official'.
XV. Tertullian, Cyprian, and the Century of Chaos
Tertullian, a highly-educated lawyer, converted to Christianity in 195 A.D., and was an avid proponent of orthodoxy in Carthage, until 206 when, as Jerome reports (On Famous Men, 53), "distressed by the envy and laxity of the clergy of the Roman church," he became a leader of the Montanist sect of Christianity. Tertullian generally accepts the traditional canon, including Hermas, until his conversion to Montanism, at which point he declares it false (another example of doctrine driving decisions regarding canonicity, as opposed to objective historical investigation), and tells a story, somehow never mentioned before, that its author was kicked out of the church for composing a lie. Unfortunately, Tertullian is notoriously prone to reporting fabulous lies in support of his views, very much in the fashion of a slimy lawyer, and the most notorious case is when he claims that Tiberius asked the Senate at Rome to recognize Christianity as an official religion (Apology 1.5).
Cyprian follows, and as a convert in 246 A.D., then bishop and martyr in 258, he repeats the superstitious rationale for the four-Gospel tradition: they are four in number "like the rivers of Paradise" (Epistles, 73). Worse, he says Paul and John each wrote to seven churches according to "the seven sons in the song of Hannah" (M 162). Whatever his reasons, Cyprian rejected the canonicity of Philemon, Hebrews, James, 2 Peter, 2 and 3 John, and Jude, and this opinion carried for a while in the West.
The first organized Imperial persecutions of Christianity (under Decius and Valentinian, and then Diocletian and Galerius) took place in this period, and by the beginning of the 4th century involved the outlawing and destruction of Christian literature. Even more than combating heresy, this became an important factor in compelling decisions of canonicity by forcing Christians to decide which books could be surrendered to authorities and burned without committing a sin, in contrast with those that were worth dying for. Once again, the very nature of the situation meant that doctrine decided the case more than any objective historical criteria, but our evidence from the 3rd century, a century of near-perpetual civil war and economic and political chaos throughout the Roman world, is too scanty to draw out any stories about what finally happened to the Bible as a result.
But the persecutions did not prevent even more spurious works from being generated. The Epistle of Paul to the Laodiceans, a poor forgery written perhaps near the end of the 3rd century (inspired by Col. 4:16), remained part of many accepted Bibles throughout the Middle Ages, and continued to be included in some printed Bibles as late as the 17th century. On the other hand, the Apocalypse of Paul, purporting to be written by Paul himself, but really composed in the 3rd century as well, was never taken anywhere near as seriously. It was apparently admired by many monks in the early Middle Ages, yet never had a chance at the canon, and it is best classified with the 3rd century Christian novels and other works of Christian fiction that proliferated in this period.
XVI. Eusebius, the First History of the Church, and the Earliest Complete Bibles
The first Christian scholar to engage in researching and writing a complete history of the Christian church, Eusebius of Caesarea, reveals the embarrassing complexity of the development of the Christian canon, despite his concerted attempt to cover this with a pro-orthodox account. Two things must be known: first, Eusebius was either a liar or hopelessly credulous, and either way not a very good historian; second, Eusebius rewrote his History of the Church at least five times, in order to accommodate changing events, including the ever-important Council of Nicea, where Arianism, the view that Christ was created by God and not entirely identical to God (the greatest advocate of this was Eusebius' contemporary Arius, after whom the doctrine was named, but the idea was not entirely original to him), was decisively declared heretical, and for the first time in history this decision had the full backing and enforcement of the Roman Empire. Eusebius was an Arian until that day, and, not desiring to lose his position in the church, he abandoned his Arianism. We may never know what effect this had on his final revision of his history--but any view he may have taken about the canon that was pro-Arian was certainly expunged. This may reveal once again how doctrine more than objective scholarship affected Christian choices concerning canonical texts.
Even in 327 A.D., when Eusebius published the final draft of his Church History, two years after the great Council of Nicea, which set out to establish a decisive orthodox creed that would be enforced by law throughout the world, there was no official Bible. Bruce Metzger paints the picture superbly, for what drove Eusebius to pay so much attention to the history of the Bible must have been:
Eusebius' search for certainty as well as...the absence of any official declaration having an absolute value, such as a canon issued by a synod, or the collective agreement among churches or bishops. Of these there is not a trace in the long series of literary notices, so conscientiously amassed by the historian. But, when all is done, the most that Eusebius can register is uncertainty so great that he seems to get confused when making a statement about it.
The only standard Eusebius employed in deciding which texts to call "recognized" is to accept every book that is recognized by every (orthodox) author he knows (Church History 3.25). The next category of texts includes those that are recognized by some but disputed at least by someone (someone, that is, who was regarded by him as orthodox--hence, the opinions of early church leaders like Marcion did not count). The final category of texts includes those universally regarded as heretical by those adhering to his idea of orthodoxy. This standard is obviously multiply flawed: first, it begins with his own subjective doctrinal judgment of who is orthodox and thus whose opinion counts at all, and second it is based solely on the doctrinal opinions of these writers. There is no reference to standards of historical research or textual criticism, for example. And against general sentiment, Eusebius only voices one opinion of his own, in defense of the Revelation of John, which was already in the second category and thus half-way to being canonical.
In giving priority to the Four Gospels, Eusebius calls them the "Holy Quaternion," thus showing signs of the belief that there could only be four Gospels for mystical or numerological reasons, a belief we have seen before (in the cases of Irenaeus and Cyprian). He adds to these Acts, 1 Peter and 1 John, and all the Epistles of Paul (whether he meant to include Hebrews is unknown--he elsewhere supports the view advanced by Clement of Alexandria that it was written by Paul in Hebrew and translated by Luke or Clement of Rome, Church History 3.3, 3.38). Eusebius hints that there were some disputes about the Apocalypse of John, but places it confusingly in the first category. Among disputed but not heretical texts he places James, Jude, 2 Peter, and 2 and 3 John, but also confuses the case further by including among these "partly disputed" texts some other works that he otherwise classifies as notha, "base" or "counterfeit" (literally "bastard texts"), giving no indication of what he means by that, or what criteria he applied. These include the Acts of Paul, book of Hermas, Apocalypse of Peter, Epistle of Barnabas, Gospel of the Hebrews, and a certain "Teachings of the Apostles," but also, confusingly, the Apocalypse of John again. As heretical forgeries he identifies the Gospels of Peter, Thomas, and Matthias, and the Acts of Andrew, John, and others.
Most astonishing is the fact that, after leaving us with this confusing state of affairs, Eusebius reports that the Emperor Constantine commissioned Eusebius personally to produce fifty excellent copies of the sacred scriptures which would be the basis, no doubt, of the official imperial Bible (Life of Constantine 4.36.37), yet we are never told what books Eusebius chose to include, or on what authority or criteria. Two nearly-complete Bibles survive from the 4th century which some believe may be copies of this imperial standard text: the Codex Sinaiticus, which has the four Gospels, Acts, fourteen Pauline Epistles (including Hebrews), seven Catholic Epistles, the Revelation of John, the Epistle of Barnabas, and the book of Hermas, and the Vaticanus Codex, which appears to contain the same material in the same order, although both texts are incomplete (Sinaiticus breaks off in the middle of Hermas, Vaticanus in the middle of Hebrews). We may wonder what books, if any, were appended after Hermas.
Finally, we have another anonymous list (in Latin) of the books included in the Bible, found in a 6th century manuscript, which cannot be dated securely, though c. 300 A.D. is most likely, and it confirms the state of confusion met by Eusebius, as well as the esteem still reserved for certain books no longer in the Bible today. The list includes the four Gospels and Acts, as well as the Acts of Paul (astonishingly, cf. discussion of this text above), only ten of Paul's Epistles (it excludes Hebrews, Philippians, and 1 and 2 Thessalonians), 1 and 2 Peter (curiously, the list says these are letters to Peter), James, Jude, 1, 2, and 3 John, Barnabas, Hermas, and the Apocalypses of John and Peter. Metzger suggests likely scribal errors here, but clearly, before the late 4th century, the contents of the Bible were neither entirely settled, nor quite like what they are today.
XVII. Cyril of Jerusalem, Athanasius of Alexandria, and the Eastern Synods
Around 350 A.D., for his churches in Jerusalem, Bishop Cyril composed a set of lectures with the explicit purpose of indoctrinating new members of the Church, which explained every aspect of the orthodox faith, including the texts to be regarded as holy scripture (Catechetical Lectures 4.33-36). This is the first time anything like this had been done: an official pronouncement from a high-ranking church official on what the Bible was to consist of, enforced on a major diocese by an imperial Church authority. Moreover, Cyril declares that no other books are to be read, not even privately. This was the decree and decision of one man, and we are given no insights into what criteria he employed. His canon consists of the four Gospels, Acts, and the now-standard 21 Epistles, in short the present Bible, minus the Revelation.
The first synod ever held to decide the official contents of the Bible was the Synod of Laodicea (Asia Minor) in 363 A.D., consisting of twenty to thirty bishops. The resulting decree stated quite simply that it was now officially resolved: "Let no private psalms nor any uncanonical books be read in the church, but only canonical ones of the New and Old Testament." The list that follows matches what we now have in modern Bibles, minus the Revelation. The influence of Cyril is almost certain. At any rate, we have no idea what criteria were used to decide this canon, and it is likely that mere authority overwhelmed any other consideration--since Cyril had decreed a canon, that was the canon, and the purpose of the synod was merely to assert the fact that nothing else was to be read. Since the canon list does not even appear in some versions of the synodic decree, it has also been suggested that the synod did not in fact name the books that were canonical but merely assumed the Cyrilian canon, and that someone later decided the decree had to be clarified by adding the list of books accepted by the church. In such a case, the decision behind the list was even less reflective or objective.
The next step was taken by the rabid anti-Arian conservative Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria. The Bishop of Alexandria was one of the most important men in the Church for one simple reason: the Festal Epistle written by that bishop to the churches in Egypt was considered the authoritative statement on the dates of Christian festivals, in deference to the presence of astronomical experts at Alexandria. It was consequently read and employed by the Syrian churches (via Antioch) and the Western churches (via Rome). In 367 A.D. Athanasius took the chance afforded him and included in his Festal Epistle of that year what he declared to be the canonical texts: the very Bible we now know (Gospels, Acts, 21 Epistles, and Revelation). "Let no one add to these," he declared, "let nothing be taken away from them." This became the Western Catholic canon, again by fiat of one man, and through deference to his authority by the rest of the Church. However, men like Gregory of Nazianzus still rejected Revelation, and other ideas of what the Bible should contain persisted here and there--either adding books (such as the Wisdom of Solomon and Ecclesiasticus, added to the OT), or rejecting them (Jude, 2 Peter, and 2 and 3 John especially).
It was not until 692 A.D. when this decision became anything official. That year the Trullan Synod was comprised of several Eastern bishops convened by Emperor Justinian to settle and organize the authorities for Christian law (just as Justinian had commanded for secular law). This decreed that, for instance, both the Synod of Laodicea and the Epistles of Athanasius were to be considered authoritative, even though they contradicted each other on whether Revelation was to be included. Furthering the confusion, this Synod also codified as official the so-called "Eighty-Fifth Apostolic Canon" which was probably written in the late 4th century but attributed to Clement of Rome--this decree established the two letters of Clement as "sacred books" and part of the "venerable and holy" Bible, along with eight other books "which it is not appropriate to make public before all, because of the mysteries contained in them." This mysterious remark is troubling, but reflects the problem, already mentioned earlier, of secret doctrines and sayings that are lost to us yet could be older and more authoritative than anything that survives.
Where this mysterious "canon" fits into history is unclear. It seems to accept the Laodicean canon, while adding the letters of Clement and eight unnamed "secret" books, for no clear reason. That this canon was actually written by Clement of Rome, as it implies, is all but impossible, since it is never mentioned by anyone before the 4th century despite its author being an important early authority, and 1 Clement never cites or mentions any texts apart from a few Pauline Epistles, much less a "holy and venerable" canon of "sacred books." But it would be intriguing if it were actually written by Clement of Alexandria--the reference to secret books would fit Morton Smith's discovery of a Clementine reference to a secret Gospel of Mark (see XII). At any rate, the official 7th century declaration was thoroughly contradictory regarding the canon, and the members of the Trullan Synod obviously, in Metzger's words, "had not even read the texts thus sanctioned." Their decision gave license for confusion: at least six different lists of canonical texts were still in use in the East by the tenth century. And to this day, Revelation is not included in the Syrian Bible.
XVIII. The Eastern Canons
For centuries the Diatessaron of Tatian, along with Acts and the Pauline Epistles (except Philemon), comprised the only accepted books in the Syrian churches, meaning that Tatian's stricter views, resulting in the rejection in 1 Timothy, did not win out. Moreover, after the pronouncements of the 4th century on the proper content of the Bible, Tatian was declared a heretic and in the early 4th century Bishop Theodoretus of Cyrrhus and Bishop Rabbula of Edessa (both in Syria) rooted out all copies they could find of the Diatessaron and replaced them with the four canonical Gospels (M 215). Thanks to them, no early copies of the Diatessaron survive--although a very early fragment suggests it would have been crucial evidence for the true state of the early Gospels (see IX).
By the fifth century the Syrian Bible, called the Peshitta, became formalized somehow into its present form: Philemon was accepted, along with James, 1 Peter and 1 John, but the remaining books are still expelled (2 and 3 John, 2 Peter, Revelation, and Jude). After the Council of Ephesus in 431 A.D., the Eastern Syrian church, in turn divided between the Nestorian and the Syrian Orthodox Churches, broke away, and retained this canon of only 22 books (the Peshitta) until the present day. However, to confuse matters, a monument erected by a Nestorian in China in 781 A.D. states that there were 27 holy books (the number in the standard Western Bible of today), although they are not named and there is debate over what books are meant. Meanwhile, the Western Monophysite Syrian church, at the urging of Bishop Philoxenus in 508 A.D., abandoned the Peshitta altogether and adopted a new Syriac translation of the Catholic Bible, yet the Harcleans still insisted on including 1 and 2 Clement in their Bible, the last surviving copy of which dates to 1170 A.D.
Then there is the Armenian Church, significant not only in being a breed apart, but also in being the first "national church" in Christian history--the royal family, and thus at their behest the rest of the nation, converted to Christianity a few years before Constantine. The Armenian Bible is essentially the same as ours, with one addition: a third letter to the Corinthians, actually taken directly from the Acts of Paul, became canonized in the Armenian Church and remains a part of the Armenian Bible to this day. Revelation, however, was not accepted into the Armenian Bible until c. 1200 A.D. when Archbishop Nerses arranged an Armenian Synod at Constantinople to introduce the text. Still, there were unsuccessful attempts even as late as 1290 A.D. to include in the Armenian canon several apocryphal books: Advice of the Mother of God to the Apostles, the Books of Criapos, and the ever-popular Epistle of Barnabas.
Then there are the African canons. The Coptic Bible (adopted by the Egyptian Church) includes the two Epistles of Clement, and the Ethiopic Bible includes books nowhere else found: the Sinodos (a collection of prayers and instructions supposedly written by Clement of Rome), the Octateuch (a book supposedly written by Peter to Clement of Rome), the Book of the Covenant (in two parts, the first details rules of church order, the second relates instructions from Jesus to the disciples given between the resurrection and the ascension), and the Didascalia (with more rules of church order, similar to the Apostolic Constitutions).
XIX. The Western Canons
Bishop Hilary gained respect and authority among the Western orthodoxy for his clever and impassioned attack on Arianism at the Council of Seleucia in 359 A.D. Since he had an affinity for some of the books accepted in the East but rejected in the West, this had the effect of turning the tide of opinion in the Western Church. The great scholar Jerome was influenced by this, and by his Eastern education, and when he decided to replace the numerous conflicting Latin translations of the New Testament texts his choices would be decisive for the rest of Western Christendom, for his translation would become a monumental masterpiece in its own right, winning respect for its literary competence and unity. Once it won the endorsement of the pervasively-influential Augustine of Hippo in the early 5th century, its authority would never be questioned. This was the Latin Vulgate Bible, of which the Gospels were completed and delivered to the Pope in 384 A.D. It is debated whether Jerome himself finished the rest, or if it was completed by others, but the finished project contained all the 27 books now found in the Bible, no more and no less, and the choice was almost certainly Jerome's, since his many other works all speak of these books as authoritative, and a letter he wrote listed all these books as his ideal canon--a letter which was placed as a preface to many of his Latin Bibles.
We have some insights into his thinking. On several occasions he makes statements that entail the belief that those books were to be accepted which had gained authority merely by having been long held in respect by the churches. Not an objective criterion, this is a vote by fatigue, a tacit acceptance of argumentum ad nausium. Yet this manner of thinking has resulted in a certain contradiction in thinking about Biblical canonicity that remains to this day: Jude was accepted as canonical simply because it was long held in respect. But Jude quotes the book of Enoch as an authority --yet the book of Enoch was rejected because it was not so widely respected. Curiously, Jude is the only book in the NT that actually cites any other book outside of the OT, and such a citation by its force and uniqueness should have won Enoch a place in the NT. For if Enoch is false, so must be Jude, at least in part--it makes no sense to call Jude an authority, and yet reject his sources. Similarly, Jerome fully believed that the Epistle of Barnabas was authentically written by the companion of Paul, a fact that surely should have won it a place in the NT (Luke and Acts, even in tradition, have no better authority than this), yet because it was not universally popular it was not accepted into his idea of the Bible. In direct contrast, though he declared that no one really knew who wrote Hebrews, he still accepted it as an authority. This is a method that contradicts all objective sense. Yet thus came the Bible.
Augustine all but codified this method, declaring without qualification that one is to "prefer those that are received by all Catholic Churches to those which some of them do not receive" (On Christian Doctrines 2.12). Of course, this whitewashes the fact that by "Catholic Churches" he means those whose opinion he accepts (a problem we have seen throughout the history of NT canonization), since many Eastern Churches rejected some of the very books Augustine upheld as universally received. In the same passage, Augustine allows these dissenting churches to be outweighed by the opinions of "the more numerous and weightier churches." Thus, this is a purely circular argument: those books are to be accepted by the Church that are accepted by the Church. This is not an objective methodology by any stretch, and is entirely driven by blind tradition and the demands of authoritarian dogma.
Augustine effectively forced his opinion on the Church by commanding three synods on canonicity: the Synod of Hippo in 393, the Synod of Carthage in 397, and another in Carthage in 419 A.D. Each of these reiterated the same Church law: "nothing shall be read in church under the name of the divine scriptures" except the OT and the 27 canonical books of the NT. Incidentally, these decrees also declared by fiat that Hebrews was written by Paul, ending all debate on the subject. That may have been convenient for the Church, but it was hardly honest. Nevertheless, Hebrews continued to be excluded from many Bibles in the West, while the bogus Epistle to the Laodiceans (see XV) continued to be found in hundreds of Bibles in various languages until relatively recent times.
Strangely, this is essentially where the story ends. It is most curious that there was never any pronouncement by any central authority such as the Pope in all of Christian history as to which books belonged in the Bible, until 1443 A.D. at the conclusion of the Council of Florence--yet this only carried weight in the West. This pronouncement excluded Laodiceans and included Hebrews, thus effectively ratifying the 27 books that had been the staple of orthodox opinion since the 4th century A.D. This no doubt arose because for the first time in almost a thousand years scholars were once again starting to question the authenticity of certain books in the canon, for example the authorship of Hebrews. A telling case is that of Erasmus, who, after being chastised by the Church, renounced his rational doubts about this and various Biblical books, on the ground that "the opinion formulated by the Church has more value in my eyes than human reasons, whatever they may be" (Response to the Censure of the Theology Faculty at Paris, 9.864). No freethinker he. No one can trust the opinions of such a man. Nevertheless, the canon of Florence was still not enforced by threat of excommunication until the canon was made an absolute article of faith at the Council of Trent in 1546 A.D. Almost all the Protestant churches followed suit within the next century with essentially identical conclusions, dissenting only by excluding the OT apocrypha held as canonical by the Catholics.
But it is worth adding an interesting irony: for with the Reformation the history of canonization came almost full circle. Luther wrote prefaces on the books of his Bible, and ordered the books consciously in descending degrees of credit, and his entire scheme reveals a pervasive criterion: everything that agrees with Paul and preaches Christ is a priori true and to be held in highest esteem, while everything else is to be doubted. And he repeats the argument from fatigue: though he explains why certain books like Hebrews and Jude are to be doubted--namely, they contradict the teachings of Paul--he goes on to declare that he does not want to remove them from so venerable a collection. Thus, not only dogmatic presupposition, but mere tradition wins the canon--not objective scholarship. The irony is that Luther is almost a twin of the heretic Marcion, who was, if you recall, the first man in Christian history to propose a canon. For Marcion believed that only Paul's doctrine was true--although he was in a better position to be more consistent about this by rejecting all books that contradicted Paul. And it is well known that Luther was rabidly anti-Jewish--as was Marcion. Though the two men differed on many key points, in a small sense the Reformation effectively re-launched the old Marcionite heresy, at the very end of the process of canonization that Marcion had begun.
The first generations of the Church fathers such as Ignatius (35-107 ad), Papias (60-130 ad) and Justin (100-165 ad) were more concerned with the canon of the Old Testament than that of the New. One reason is, of course, that they could appeal to the living oral tradition that surrounded them.  Another reason is that some of the New Testament books were not yet written during their lifetimes.
In fact the impetus towards providing a definitive list of canonical books for the New Testament came from a heretic [a] named Marcion (160 ad). He was a native of Sinope in Asia Minor who made his way to Rome in AD140 and began preaching what he believed to be the original good news. Expelled from the church of Rome around 144, he taught that many of the early Christian literature were corrupted by Jewish ideas. Marcion accepted only the letters of Paul (Galatians, I & II Corinthians, Romans, I & II Thessalonians, Laodiceans [?], Colossians, Philemon and Philippians) and a "purified" version of Luke's gospel. Marcion's teaching was immensely popular and he became an immediate concern for his rivals. 
Irenaeus (c.130-c. 200), Bishop of Hippo, argued against Marcion's inclusion of only one gospel with a curious piece of logic: "As there are four winds," he argued, "there should therefore be four gospels." Satisfied with this logically ruthless demolition of Marcion, Irenaeus drew up a list of writings he considered canonical. His list consist of 22 books of which 21 are present in today's New Testament. But noteworthy are the books he left out: Philemon, II Peter, II & III John, Hebrews and Jude.  Interestingly, his list included a book no longer present in the New Testament: The Shepherd of Hermas.  [b] Thus the first formal list of canonical books drawn up in the second half of the second century (around AD180) does not completely tally with the modern canon.
The next list came from the so-called Muratorian Fragment, discovered in Milan by L.A. Muratori who published it in 1740. The fragment is dated to around AD200. The fragment presents a list of what its author considered to be inspired or canonical books. The list rejects The Shepherd of Hermas, saying that it was a recent book. One of the books it did add to the canonical list does not inspire confidence in the believer. It is a book very few Christians know of today and is called The Apocalypse of Peter.  [c] Again we find some books in todays canon missing from the Muratorian Fragment: I & II Peter, Hebrews, James and III John. The exclusion of the epistles of Peter is remarkable for a Roman document (if Peter did indeed die in Rome and indeed wrote the epistle attributed to him). The exclusion of the epistles of Hebrew and James, both of which are known in Rome at least a century before the list is curious. 
The next canonical list came from Origen (c185-254) who in 230 AD defined what he believed to be the canon of scripture for the New Testament. He included the four gospels, Acts, Paul's thirteen epistles, I Peter, I John and Revelation. He also mentioned that the following books were under dispute: Hebrews, II Peter, II & III John, James, Jude, the Epistle of Barnabas [d], The Shepherd of Hermas, The Didache [e] and the Gospel According to the Hebrews. [f] The last four books are no longer in the canon today. 
We have now reached the period of the uncial script. In the extent manuscripts that we have, the disagreements as to which books should be included in the New Testament and which should be excluded are evident here as well. We find in Codex Sinaiticus the inclusion of Shepherd of Hermas and the Epistle of Barnabas. Both works were placed in the codex that in no way showed that the compiler wanted them to be separated from the rest.  The Codex Alexandrinus contains the two Epistles of Clement, written by Clement, Bishop of Rome, to the Corinthian Church around AD95. [9}
We can conclude then,
- that by the beginning of the fourth century, some books that are now included in the New Testament canon had their canonicity disputed.
- Some books who were in the same boat with these somehow never got accepted as canonical. These disputed books were: Hebrews, Revelation, the Epistles of James, II Peter, II & III John, The Shepherd of Hermas, The Didache, The Epistle of Barnabas and The Epistles of Clement [g].
Then a process that can be called religious forgery began to take place. Books which somehow manage to attach themselves to the names of apostles (the tradition of apostolic authorship rears its ugly head again!) were eventually thought to be inspired based on that "fact": Hebrew was attributed to Paul; Revelation and the II & III John to John the apostle, the epistles of James and Jude to the brothers of Jesus; and the epistles of Peter to Simon Peter himself.  We know today, based on critical documentary research, that these attributions are false. Most of the books that were left out never had the luck to strongly attach themselves to the names of apostles and were thus left out. So the inclusion of some of the books in the New Testament was based on the fraudulent belief in apostolic authorships. In should be mentioned here that in no way were the books that finally became canonical invariably written earlier than the non-canonical ones. Thus the non-canonical Didache, I Clement and the Epistle of Barnabas all date to the second half of the first century, while the canonical II Peter and Jude dates to the middle of the second century.
In fact the first list of all the 27 books of the New Testament to the exclusion of all others appeared in the Festal Letter written by Athanasius (c296-373), Bishop of Alexandria to the Egyptian Churches in AD367. In the letter Athanasius told his bishops that these twenty seven books are to be regarded as canonical.  Athanasius' list was confirmed by a council under Pope Damasus in AD382. However many churches in the east continue to disagree with the Athanasian canon. The Book of Revelation, for instance, was not considered divinely inspired until well into the eighth century. We find in Codex Claromontanus, a sixth century manuscript, that the Hebrews was omitted from it while the Epistle of Barnabas was included and placed between the epistle of Jude and the book of Revelation. 
Even today we find some Christian churches, with very old roots, have different books in the New Testament. The East-Syrian Nestorian Church has a canon with only 22 books. The canon excludes II Peter, II & III John, Jude and Revelation from their New Testament. The Ethiopian Church have thirty eight books in their New testament and includes in their list of canonical books the Shepherd of Hermas, I & II Clement and the Apostolic Constitutions.  [h]
What can we conclude about the NT canon? We find that:
- The New Testament canon was by no means universally accepted by all Christians since the beginning.
- Books that were accepted by some churches as canonical were rejected by others as uninspired.
- False tradition of apostolic authorship helped many of the books that eventually became included in the canon.
- Ludicrous arguments, a la Ireneaus and his "four winds therefore four gospels" logic, played a role in the acceptance and rejection of the various books.
- Even today there is still some disagreements as to what constitute the NT canon.
- We see that the making of canon of New Testament books was in no way miraculous or inspired but betrays its human origins.
a. Terms such as heretic and orthodox are retroactive. In the lifetimes of these figures involved, every party calls itself the orthodox and labels every other as heretics. We will come through this term heretic many times in this website applied to Christian scholars who lost the theological battle for survival. Hence, to the uninitiated, reading the history of Christian theology, it would seem as if the orthodox party always triumphed against the heretic. Whereas, in reality, heretics simply means losers in the theological battle.
b. The Shepherd of Hermas is the treatise of Hermas to whom an angel appeared in the form of a shepherd and communicated with him in various visions. The work inculcates the need for penance and the possibility of forgiveness for post baptismal sin.
c. The Apocalypse of Peter describes how Peter was granted a vision of heaven and hell
d. The Epistle of Barnabas was a theological tract which strongly attacked Judaism and claims to find in the Old testament testimonies for Christianity.
e. The Didache is a short Christian manual on morals and church practice.
f. The Gospel According to the Hebrews was the gospel used originally by the Nazarene sect. Its was composed in Aramaic and contains certain sayings of Jesus not recorded in the canonical gospels. The consensus among scholars today is that some passages in this gospels, although based on different traditions from the canonical gospels, are of historical value.
g. The First Epistle of Clement dealt with the problem of the hierarchical structure of the early church. Its immediate concern was the deposing of some presbyters in the Corinthian Church. The second epistle sis a homily on Christian life and the duty of repentance
h. The Apostolic Constitutions is a collection of religious law that most scholars believe are of Syrian origin.
1. Davidson & Leaney, Biblical Criticism: p230
2. Bentley, Secrets of Mount Sinai: p170
Bruce, The Books and the Parchments: p108
Davidson & Leaney, Biblical Criticism: p230
3. Bentley, Secrets of Mount Sinai: p170
Bruce, The Books and the Parchments: p109
4. Davidson & Leaney, Biblical Criticism: p230
5. Bruce, The Books and the Parchments: p109-110
Davidson & Leaney, Biblical Criticism: p230-231
6. ibid: p231
7. Bruce, The Books and the Parchments: p112
8. Bentley, Secrets of Mount Sinai: p176
9. Bruce, The Books and the Parchments: p111
Livingstone, Dictionary of the Christian Church: p116
10. Parmalee, Guidebook to the Bible: p134
11. Bentley, Secrets of Mount Sinai: p170
Bruce, The Books and the Parchments: p112
Livingstone, Dictionary of the Christian Church: p88
12. Bentley, Secrets of Mount Sinai: p171
13. Metzger, The Oxford Companion to the Bible: p104