Hahneman on Early Canonical Lists

The following words are those of Geoffrey Mark Hahneman, taken from “The Muratorian Fragment and the Origins of the New Testament Canon,” which is Chapter 24 in The Canon Debate ed. by Lee M. McDonald and James A. Sanders (Kindle location 9277).

In the fourth century there is a sudden and widespread appearance of Christian catalogues of scriptures. The appearance of these lists confirms a conceptual change in the mind of the church. Whether there were any lists before this time is doubtful. The use of scriptures by earlier Christian writers was a recurrent theme in Eusebius. Yet Eusebius had to create lists or Catalogues of the New Testament for the writings of his predecessors, namely Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, and Origen. The absence of original New Testament catalogues in Eusebius’s work, other than his own (Hist. eccl. 3.25.1– 7), indicates reliably that no such catalogues were known to him. Thus the interest in defining the canon by the use of catalogues, widespread in the fourth century, can be traced back no further than Eusebius. But in the fourth and early fifth century, there are fifteen undisputed lists of the Christian canon.

  1. Eusebius (Ecclesiastical History 3.25.1– 7), 303–25
  2. Catalogue in Codex Claromontanus, 303– 67
  3. Cyril of Jerusalem (Catechetical Lectures 4.33), c. 350
  4. Athanasius (Festal Epistle 39), c. 367
  5. Mommsen Catalogue, c. 365–90 [MDG: aka Cheltenham list]
  6. Epiphanius (Panarion 76.5), c. 374–77
  7. Apostolic Canons 85, c. 380
  8. Gregory of Nazianzus (Carmen de veris scripturae libris 12.31), c. 383–90
  9. African Canons, c. 393–419
  10. Jerome (Epistle 53), c. 394
  11. Augustine (On Christian Doctrine 2.8.12), c. 396–7
  12. Amphilochius (Iambics to Seleucus 289– 319), c. 396
  13. Rufinus (Commentary on the Apostle’s Creed 36), c. 400
  14. Pope Innocent (Letter to Exsuperius), c. 405
  15. Syrian Catalogue of St. Catherine’s, c. 400

These 15 are included in Ancient Lists of New Testament Books.


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