The process of forming a canon (measuring stick) of New Testament Scripture

I. The Writings

--Most of the New Testament writings were penned between 50 - 120 C.E.

II. Early attributions

--Most early Christians accepted the Hebrew bible as scripture and referred to it often

--Jesus's words also accepted as scripture

--Christians in different areas read different things

A. The state of affairs in the mid-second century

1. Letter of Polycarp, ca. 130

a. Uses many NT writings without attribution to authors

b. Lines from the synoptic gospels, Paul's letters, Hebrews, and 1 Peter

2. Shepherd of Hermas, 110-140

a. No NT citations at all

b. One citation of an obscure Jewish apocalyptic book

3. Letter of 2 Clement, ca. 150

a. Several similarities to NT letters but no attribution

b. References to "the Lord said" but not any particular gospel

c. Some of the quotes are not from the canonical gospels such as the Gospel of Thomas

4. Justin Martyr (ca. 150)

a. Gospels quoted as "memoirs of the apostles", no versions we have now

b. Never quotes Paul

III. The effect of other versions of Christianity

A. Charismatic Christians like the Montanists: texts provide more stability than "anything goes" revelations

B. The Marcionites: rejection of Hebrew scriptures and much of NT forced the issue of acceptance

C. Other gospels: fixing the canon at four (Irenaeus, ca. 180)

IV. The Muratorian Canon

A. Eighth-century Latin version of Greek, possibly late 2nd century, list of NY books

B. Includes 4 canonical gospels, Acts, and 13 "Pauline" letters, Jude, Wisdom of Solomon, 2 apocalypses

1. Excluded: Hebrews, James, 1 and 2 Peter, one of the John letters

V. The criteria

A. Ancient: near the time of Jesus or the apostles

B. Apostolic: by an apostle or at least attributed to one

1. Hebrews not accepted in the Western churches because not thought to be by Paul

2. Revelations not accepted in the Eastern churches because not attributed to John

C. Catholic: widespread usage

1. Explains inclusion of Apocalypse of Peter (later disallowed under criteria B)

2. Explains exclusion of shorter Patoral Epistles (not widely used, but thought to be by apostles, so they get in under criteria B

D. Orthodox: must fit the criteria of teachings coming to be recognized as orthodox

1. Allowed: some apostolic writings that are used by heretics but wrongly interpreted, such as Paul's letters or John's gospel

VI. Books that continued to be included by some throughout the Middle Ages

--The Shepherd of Hermas

--The Epistle of Barnabas

--Acts of Paul and Thecla

--Gospel of Peter

--Apocalypse of Peter