These are works I have cited in various posts I have written for this blog. The list is not exhaustive for often I have cited a work with the relevant information in the post itself. I’ve begun this bibliography so that going forward I can more briefly cite a work in a post, linking it to this list in order to save myself some time for works that I might be referencing more than once or twice.
You will notice that my research encompasses a wide variety of sources. Some are conservative, some are liberal. Some are Protestant, others are Roman Catholic, still others are Eastern Orthodox. Some are living and some are deceased. Some write for popular audiences, some write for academic ones. Some of these sources I have read in their entirety; others I have consulted selectively. These sources would find many points of disagreement among themselves. I had case my net widely so that I might not miss any opportunity to find the truth about the history of how the Bible came to us.
Some housekeeping notes:
– Be aware that the concepts “Canonical Theism” (see William J. Abraham below) and “Canonical Criticism” (see Brevard S. Childs below) have little to do with each other and little to do with the history of how the New Testament came to be. Thus they make only a limited contribution to the focus of this bibliography.
– The works in this list which are older are also listed separately as A Sub-Bibliography of Nineteenth-Century and Prior Works.
Abraham, William J. (1947-). Canon and Criterion in Christian Theology: From the Fathers to Feminism. Oxford University Press, 1998, 520 pages. Abraham “is an Irish theologian, analytic philosopher, and United Methodist pastor known for his contributions to the philosophy of religion, religious epistemology, evangelism, and church renewal.” In declaring his “overview” of the history of New Testament canon formation early in this book, he cites as the “familiar” sources on this subject Campenhausen, Farmer and Farkasfalvy, Gamble, Metzger, McDonald, Bruce, and Hahneman – all of which can be found in this bibliography. Seems to lean on Reuss (see in this bibliography as well) for his historical view.
__________. The Bible: Beyond the Impasse. Highland Loch Press, 2012, 128 pages. There’s little about the formation of the canon in this representation of a three-lecture series. However, he does use the expression “apostolic witness” five times on pages 65-67, seeming to equate it to the New Testament or at least the primary content of the New Testament. Abraham, not just in this book, looks to the patristic, rather than the apostolic, period for his primary guidance of church life.
__________, Jason E. Vickers, and Natalie Van Kirk, Editors. Canonical Theism: A Proposal for Theology and the Church. Eerdmans, 2008, 260 pages. From the Amazon description: “Canonical Theism is a post-Protestant vision for the renewal of both theology and church…The central thesis of the work is that the good and life-giving Holy Spirit has equipped the church with not only a canon of scripture but also with a rich canonical heritage of materials, persons, and practices. However, much of the latter has been ignored or cast aside. This unplumbed resource of canonical heritage waits for the church to rediscover its wealth…”
Aland, Kurt (1915-1994). The Problem of the New Testament Canon, Contemporary Studies in Theology 2. Mowbray, 1962, 33 pages. This is the text of a 1961 lecture delivered at a conference on New Testament studies whose theme was “The New Testament Today.”
__________, and Barbara Aland. The Text of the New Testament, 2nd edition. Translated by Erroll F. Rhodes. Eerdmans, 1981, 1987, 1989, 1995, 378 pages.
Alexander, Archibald (1772-1851). The Canon of the Old and New Testaments Ascertained; or, The Bible, Complete, without the Apocrypha and Unwritten Traditions. Presbyterian Board of Education, 1851. Alexander was one of the founders, and the first principal, of Princeton Theological Seminary. Alexander, B. B. Warfield, Charles Hodge, and A. A. Hodge (named after Alexander) became known as the “Princeton theologians” and left a distinctive mark on the history of American Christianity.
Allert, Craig D. “The State of the New Testament Canon in the Second Century: Putting Tatian’s Diatessaron in Perspective” in Bulletin for Biblical Research 9 (1999) p. 1-18 (Institute for Biblical Research). Allert argues that since the term “canon” was not used to refer to a fixed collection of writings until the fourth century, that it is anachronistic and inaccurate to speak of the “canonical” status of the Gospels in the second century. He adheres firmly to Sundberg’s distinction between “canon” and “scripture.”
__________. A High View of Scripture: The Authority of the Bible and the Formation of the New Testament Canon. Baker Academic, 2007.
Allison, Gregg. How the Bible Was Formed (“An Excerpt from Historical Theology“). Zondervan, 2011.
Athanasius (296-373). Festal Letter 39. 367, This is the earliest formal statement about New Testament contents that matches our own. See Athanasius on the New Testament Canon.
Augustine (354-430). On Christian Doctrine. 397 (the first three books), 426 (the fourth). He lists the canonical books in 2.8.12-13. See Augustine on the New Testament Canon.
__________. Against Faustus (Contra Faustum). In 33:6 Augustine explains how we can know, even from a purely human standpoint, whether literary works are authentic or false, using Hippocrates as an example. See Augustine on Authorship (Contra Faustum 33:6). Samuel P. Tregelles used this logic in his defense of traditional authorship of the New Testament books (see his name below).
Balas, David L. “Marcion Revisited: A ‘Post-Harnack’ Perspective” (1980, 14 pages) in Texts and Testaments edited by March (see below).
Balla, Peter (1962-). “Evidence for an Early Christian Canon (Second and Third Century)” in The Canon Debate, edited by Lee M. McDonald and James A. Sanders, 2002 (see below).
Barnett, Paul. Is the New Testament Reliable? Second Edition. IVP Academic, 2003, 197 pages.
Bartholomew, Craig et al. Editors. Canon And Biblical Interpretation (Scripture and Hermeneutics Series, V. 7). Zondervan, 2006, 464 pages.
Barton, John. Holy Writings, Sacred Text: The Canon in Early Christianity. Westminster John Knox Press, 1997. Published in the UK as The Spirit and the Letter: Studies in the Biblical Canon. SPCK Publishing, 1997. Barton begins with a helpful review of the major milestones in modern scholarship on the New Testament canon. See notes on Zahn below.
__________. Making the Christian Bible. Darton, Longman, and Todd, 1997, 112 pages. Unlike Holy Writings, this book is for a general audience.
Best, Ernest (1917-2004). “Scripture, Tradition and the Canon of the New Testament” in Bulletin of the John Rylands Library of Manchester 61.2 (Spring 1979): 258-289. I found this essay of limited value. I had hoped it would explain how oral tradition and Scripture co-existed in the early days of Christianity, and how their relative importance to Christians traded places from the first century to the fourth. However, the author was more concerned about making sure readers didn’t rely too much on the canon as we have it since, he believes, the ancients didn’t know as much about authorship of the documents as modern scholars do. Contrast this view with Fisher’s below who, more reasonably, acknowledges that ancient scholars had “closer ties and greater information.”
Black, David Alan. The Authorship of Hebrews: The Case for Paul. Energion Publications, 2013. Some Black’s work preliminary to this book is referenced in Pitts and Walker below. See also Notes on the Authorship of Hebrews.
__________. See “Lea, Thomas D. and David Alan Black” below.
Blomberg, Craig L. Can We Still Believe the Bible? An Evangelical Engagement with Contemporary Questions. Baker Publishing Group, 2014.
Bock, Darrell L. “New Testament Introduction” – lecture series in which 8 segments are devoted to the New Testament canon.
Bockmuehl, Markus. Simon Peter in Scripture and Memory: The New Testament Apostle in the Early Church. Baker Academic, 2012, Kindle edition.
Bokedal, Tomas. The Formation and Significance of the Christian Biblical Canon: A Study in Text, Ritual and Interpretation. Bloomsbury, 2014, paperback (2015), 421 pages.
Bradshaw, Rob. “The New Testament Canon” (a resource list) at biblicalstudies.org.uk.
Bruce, F. F. (1910-1990). The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable? IVP Academic, 1943…1981.
__________. “The Canon of Scripture,” Inter-Varsity (Autumn 1954): 19-22. A short article written almost 25 years before his magnum opus on the subject (see The Canon of Scripture below).
__________. “New Light on the Origins of the New Testament,” Faith & Thought 101.2 (1974): 158-162.
__________. The Canon of Scripture. Intervarsity Press, 1988.
Budiselić, Ervin. “Impact of the Formation of the New Testament Canon the Creed of Sola Scriptura.” Kairos, Vol. 5 No. 1 (May 2011): 39-61. Author info at Academia.edu.
Burkhard, John J. Apostolicity Then and Now: An Ecumenical Church in a Postmodern World. Liturgical Press, 2004, trade paperback, 250 pages. See also Thiessen 2011 (below), who leans on this work.
Campenhausen, Hans von. The Formation of the Christian Bible. trans. J. A. Baker. Augsburg Fortress, 1972; Sigler Press, 1997 edition. The original German version was published in 1968; the English translation came out in 1972, which is why Dungan could write about it in 1975. For context on Campenhausen (1903-1989), see notes on Zahn below. In beginning his conclusion on p. 327 Campenhausen writes “I have brought this history of the formation of the Christian Canon – a term which was still not used of the Bible during the period we have surveyed – to a close with Origen, and have deliberately refrained from carrying it beyond him. It is undisputed that both the Old and New Testaments reached their final form and significance around the year 200.”
Carson, D. A., Douglas J. Moo, Leon Morris. “The New Testament Canon” p. 501-515 of An Introduction to the New Testament. Zondervan, 1992.
Chancey, Mark A. “Review of The Making of the New Testament Documents by E. E. Ellis” (see below under Ellis). Journal of Biblical Literature, Vol. 120, No. 4 (Winter, 2001), pp. 767-769. See annotation on Ellis below.
Charteris, A. H. Canonicity: A Collection of Early Testimonies to the Canonical Books of the New Testament. William Blackwood and Sons, 1880.
Childs, Brevard S. The New Testament Canon: An Introduction. Fortress Press, 1984. Childs’ name is associated with the school of thought called “canonical criticism” (also rendered as “canon criticism” or “the canonical approach”) which is “a way of interpreting the Bible that focuses on the text of the biblical canon itself as a finished product. As Evangelical scholar David G. Dunbar (see below, p. 299) calls it “the most recent attempt of critical scholars to find some abiding importance in the traditional canon.”
Collins, Raymond F. The Birth of the New Testament: The Origin and Development of the First Christian Generation. Crossroad, 1993, 324 pages.
Comfort, Philip W. Encountering the Manuscripts: An Introduction to New Testament Paleography & New Testament. Broadman & Holman, 2005, Kindle edition, 432 print pages.
____________. Editor. The Origin of the Bible. Tyndale House Publishers, 1992, 2003, 2012, Kindle edition, 343 print pages. This volume includes articles by Harold O. J. Brown, F. F. Bruce, Carl F. H. Henry, and J. I. Packer, as well as the editor and others. This 2012 edition is billed as “newly updated.”
Cowan, Steven B. and Terry L. Wilder. In Defense of the Bible: A Comprehensive Apologetic for the Authority of Scripture, especially “Do We Have the Right Canon?” by Paul D. Wegner, Terry L. Wilder, and Darrell L. Bock. B & H Publishing Group, 2013, Kindle edition.
Darring, Gerald. “Theology Library: New Testament” (a webpage of resources with multiple links on NT canon) at SpringHillCollege.edu.
Davidson, Samuel. The Canon of the Bible: Its Formation, History, and Fluctuations, Third Revised and Enlarged Edition. C. Kegan Paul, 1880.
Davis, Glenn. The Development of the Canon of the New Testament (website). It appears that the author last updated this site in 2010.
Dayton, Wilber T. “Factors promoting the formation of the New Testament canon” in Bulletin of the Evangelical Theological Society 10.1 (Winter 1967): 28-35.
Dempster, Stephen G. “Canons on the Right and Canons on the Left: Finding a Resolution in the Canon Debate” in Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 52/1 (March 2009) 47-77. This was a plenary address at the 60th annual meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society in Providence, RI on November 19, 2008.
Donner, Theo. “Some Thoughts on the History of the New Testament Canon” in Themelios, Vol. 7, Issue 3, (1982), 23-27. Donner makes three important points in this ostensibly modest essay: 1) in studying the ancient church for its reception of writings that would later constitute the New Testament, it makes more sense to look for occasions where they were regarded as authoritative rather than where they were called “scripture” or “canon,” 2) in doing so, we should be alert to allusions and other indications less explicit than quotations, and 3) the seven writings that are usually regarded as “disputed” by the ancients (Hebrews, James, 2 Peter, 2 and 3 John, Jude, and Revelation) were received early and only doubted later and doubted only in certain regions, said doubts being largely resolved in the formal canonization that occurred in the late fourth and fifth centuries.
Dunbar, David G. “The Biblical Canon” in Hermeneutics, Authority, and Canon, ed. D. A. Carson and John D. Woodbridge. Academie Books, 1986. Dunbar begins his 62 pages with a rebuke to Dungan’s prediction of needed canon revision and concludes with a strong affirmation of the classic Evangelical position.
Dungan, David L. “The New Testament Canon in Recent Study” in Interpretation Vol. XXIX, Vol. 4, October 1975. Dungan’s review of scholarly literature on this subject is interesting and helpful, even if dated at this point. His prejudices – especially his anti-evangelical ones – show throughout, but that is the price we pay for candor. As for his prediction that the canon was on the verge of upheaval, Dunbar refuted him ten years afterward.
__________. Constantine’s Bible: Politics and the Making of the New Testament. Fortress Press, 2007. In his preface, Dungan (1936-2008) writes “This book…was born and nurtured in a course on “The Making of the New Testament” that I taught for thirty-five years at the University of Tennessee.” He goes on to say, “…the core of my course always was an arduous, lengthy, in-depth reading of Eusebius’ Ecclesiastical History,” which tells us “about the way the churches went about selecting what would become Christian scripture” (p. vii, 61). Constantine’s Bible is valuable less for what it tells us about Constantine and more for what it tells us about Eusebius. Regarding Eusebius, see below. For a review of Dungan’s book, see both Griffin and Young below.
Dunn, James D. G. Unity and Diversity in the New Testament: An Inquiry into the Character of Earliest Christianity. SCM Press, 1977, 1990, 2006 – specifically, “Conclusions – XV – The Authority of the New Testament” consisting of “Summary” and “Has the Canon a Continuing Function?”. The latter part, “Has the Canon a Continuing Function?” appears also as Chapter 32 in The Canon Debate (see McDonald and Sanders below).
Ehrman, Bart D. Lost Christianities: The Battles for Scripture and the Faiths We Never Knew. Oxford University Press, 2003.
__________. Forged: Writing in the Name of God – Why the Bible’s Authors Are Not Who We Think They Are. HarperCollins, 2011. Ehrman wrote this book for a popular, not an academic, audience.
__________. Forgery and Counterforgery: The Use of Literary Deceit in Early Christian Polemics. Oxford University Press, 2012. Ehrman wrote this book for an academic, not a popular, audience.
Ellis, E. Earle. The Making of the New Testament Documents. Brill, 1999, 522 pages. Mark A. Chancey (see above) writes in his review of this book “Ellis asserts…that all twenty-seven of the NT documents emanate from four allied missions, each led by an apostle: the Pauline mission (thirteen epistles, Hebrews, and Luke-Acts); the Jacobean (James, Jude, and Matthew); the Petrine (1, 2 Peter; Mark); and the Johannine (John, 1, 2, 3 John; Revelation). The presence throughout the NT of shared ‘pre-formed traditions’ (a term encompassing teaching originating with the historical Jesus as well as later apostolic instruction) demonstrates the four missions’ extensive cooperation and suggests that we should understand the authorship of many of the NT texts as a corporate enterprise…Ellis suggests that the four missions were opposed by a united front, a fifth countermission comprised of judaizing and gnosticizing Christians.”
Eusebius (263-339). The History of the Church. Translated by G. A. Williamson. Penguin, 1965, 432 pages. (Also translated by Arthur Cushman McGiffert. Archeron Press, 2012, Kindle edition.) This ancient work is sometimes titled Ecclesiastical History or Historia Ecclesiae (i.e. Church History – often abbreviated EH or HE). Historians believe that the final edition of this work was issued around 325. See also note on Dungan above. In HE 3.25.1-7, Eusebius gives his most direct statement on the New Testament writings. See Eusebius on the New Testament Books.
Evans, C. Stephen. “Canonicity, Apostolicity, and Biblical Authority: Some Kierkegaardian Reflections” in Canon and Biblical Interpretation ed. by Bartholomew et al (above). Evans makes the point that apostolicity is the defining criterion of canonicity (see especially Kindle location 4127) and then defends the canon against claims of pseudonymous authorship of certain New Testament books made by modern critical scholars.
Farkasfalvy, Denis M. “‘Prophets and Apostles’: The Conjunction of the Two Terms Before Irenaeus” (1980, 26 pages) in Texts and Testaments edited by March (see below).
__________. “The Early Development of the New Testament Canon” in The Formation of the New Testament Canon: An Ecumenical Approach by Farmer and Farkasfalvy. Paulist Press, 1983, 82 pages. Farkasfalvy’s Roman Catholic loyalty shows through, but not in an offensive or distracting way. Focusing on the second century (which he calls “the most important formative period of the New Testament canon”), dealing with key Christian writers of that age, and using Irenaeus as the key synthesizing voice, Farkasfalvy demonstrates that the New Testament canon was formed on “the principle of apostolicity.” In doing so, he describes the transition from reliance upon oral tradition to a reliance upon writings.
Farmer, William R. “A Study of the Development of the New Testament Canon” in The Formation of the New Testament Canon: An Ecumenical Approach by Farmer and Farkasfalvy. Paulist Press, 1983, 89 pages. Farmer traces the development of the NT canon from Ignatius through Polycarp, Irenaeus, Hippolytus, Origen, Eusebius, to Athanasius. He writes “The Gospel of Jesus Christ itself is the primary cause of the New Testament, but persecution and heresy were major secondary factors causing the Church to form the particular New Testament that has been handed down in the Church.” He calls it “the canon of martyrs” – tracing its development from the prototypical martyr, Jesus Christ Himself.
Farmer, William R. and Denis M Farkasfalvy. The Formation of the New Testament Canon: An Ecumenical Approach. Paulist Press, 1983, 182 pages (including Index of Texts). Preface by Harold W. Attridge (who edited the two essays), Introduction by Albert C. Outler, in which he writes, “Both authors agree that ‘a canon in principle was operative in the Catholic community shortly after the middle of the second century’.” (Farmer is Protestant and Farkasfalvy is Roman Catholic; both seem to accommodate liberal scholarship’s rejection of apostolic authorship for certain NT books but keep to traditional conclusions regarding apostolicity of the NT.) See entries for Farkasfalvy and Farmer (both above) respectively for other annotations.
Ferguson, Everett. “The Covenant Idea in the Second Century” (1980, 28 pages) in Texts and Testaments edited by March (see below).
Filson, Floyd V. Which Books Belong in the Bible: A Study of the Canon. Westminster, 1957, 174 pages.
Fisher, Milton C. “The Canon of the New Testament” (13 pages) in Comfort The Origin of the Bible 2012 (see above). Fisher gives the history of NT canon formation, dividing his focus into these periods: first century, first half of second century, second half of second century, third century, and fourth century. As for the determination of canonicity, Fisher says that it is “a fact of history” and “not a repeatable process” (p. 75) because “the early church” had “closer ties and greater information than is available to us today” (p. 76).
Flesseman-van Leer, Ellen (1912-1991). Tradition and Scripture in the Early Church. Van Gorcum, 1954. On this subject, see also Hanson (below).
Foster, Lewis. “The earliest collection of Paul’s Epistles” in Bulletin of the Evangelical Theological Society 10.1 (Winter 1967): 44-55. Suggests that Luke first collected and published Paul’s letters, making Luke to the New Testament what Ezra was to the Old Testament. Compare this idea with Trobisch 1994 and Richards 1998, who suggest that Paul himself was the earliest collector of his letters (though Richards’ proposal is less definitive than Trobisch’s).
Funk, Robert W. “The Once and Future New Testament” in The Canon Debate, 2002, see McDonald and Sanders below.
Furches, Joel. Christ-Centered Apologetics: Sharing the Gospel with Evidence. CrossLink Publishing, 2014, 260 pages.
Gamble, Harry Y. The New Testament Canon: Its Making and Meaning, Augsburg Fortress Publishing, 1985.
__________. “Canon: The New Testament” in The Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary, ed. by David Noel Freedman et al. Doubleday, 1992.
__________. Books and Readers in the Early Church: A History of Early Christian Texts. Yale University Press, 1995.
__________. “Canonical Formation of the New Testament” in The Dictionary of New Testament Background, ed. by Craig A. Evans and Stanley E. Porter, p. 183-195. InterVarsity, 2000.
__________. “The New Testament Canon: Recent Research and the Status Quaestionis” in The Canon Debate, 2002, edited by McDonald and Sanders (see below).
Geisler, Norman L. and William E. Nix. From God to Us: How We Got Our Bible. Moody Publishers, 1974, 2012.
Geisler, Norman L. and Frank Turek. I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist. Crossway, 2004. Chapters 9 through 11 deal with text and canon.
Geisler, Norman and Shawn Nelson. Evidence of an Early New Testament Canon. Bastion Books, 2015, Kindle edition, print length 59 pages.
Geldenhuys, J. Norval. Supreme Authority: The Authority of the Lord, His Apostles, and the New Testament. Eerdmans, 1953. Ralph Martin (see below) extends this argument.
Gilbert, Greg. Why Trust the Bible? Crossway, 2015, Kindle edition (print edition 160 pages).
Goodacre, Mark. “Canon” (a section of his NT Gateway website).
Goodspeed, Edgar J. The Formation of the New Testament. University of Chicago Press, 1926, 210 pages.
Gianotti, Chuck. The Formation of the New Testament: Your No-Nonsense Guide to Understanding Its Authenticity and Credibility. ECS Ministries, 2010.
Greenlee, J. Harold. The Text of the New Testament: From Manuscript to Modern Edition. Baker Academic, 2012 Ebook edition. Originally published as Scribes, Scrolls, and Scripture in 1985 by Eerdmans. Content updated and expanded, and retitled to current title in 2008 by Hendrickson Publishers. Greenlee’s goal was to write “in laymen’s language but with scholarly accuracy.”
Griffin, Carl W. “Review of David Dungan, Constantine’s Bible: Politics and the Making of the New Testament” in Brigham Young University Studies Vol. 48, No. 3 (2009).
Grosheide, F. W. ed. Some Early Lists of the Books of the New Testament. Brill, 1948. This is a slender volume (24 pages) with much of its text in Greek and Latin. It gives 12 lists, beginning with the Muratorian Fragment and concluding with the Decretum Gelasianum. For more such lists, see Ancient Lists of New Testament Books.
Hahneman, Geoffrey Mark. The Muratorian Fragment and the Development of the Canon. Clarendon, 1992. For context on Hahneman, see notes on Zahn below.
__________. “The Muratorian Fragment and the Origins of the New Testament Canon” in The Canon Debate, 2002, see McDonald below.
Hanson, R. P. C. (1916-1988). Tradition in the Early Church. SCM Press, 1962 (Wipf and Stock reprint, 2009, 288 pgs). On this subject, see also Flesseman-van Leer (above).
Harnack, Adolph von. History of Dogma, Vol. II. Translated from the third German edition by Neil Buchanan. Little, Brown and Company, 1901. See particularly “I. B. The designation of selected writings read in the Church as New Testament Scriptures or, in other words, as a collection of Apostolic Writings.” For context on Harnack, see notes on Zahn below.
__________. The Origin of the New Testament and the Most Important Consequences of the New Creation. Translated by J. R. Wilkinson. Williams and Norgate, 1925, 246 pages.
Harris, R. Laird. Inspiration and Canonicity of the Bible. Zondervan, 1957, 1969.
Hays, J. Daniel, and J. Scott Duvall, eds. How the Bible Came to Be, an ebook short excerpted from their larger work The Baker Illustrated Bible Handbook, Baker Books, 2011.
Hays, Steve. God’s Canon. 2011, digital book. Steve writes for the blog Triablogue. One of his big concerns is to defend Protestantism against Roman Catholocism and that argument characterizes this book.
Hill, Charles E. “The Canon on the New Testament” in The ESV Study Bible. Crossway, 2008, p. 2579-2581.
__________. Who Chose the Gospels?: Probing the Great Gospel Conspiracy. Oxford University Press, 2010.
__________. “‘The Truth Above All Demonstration’: Scripture in the Patristic Period” in The Enduring Authority of the Christian Scriptures, D. A. Carson, editor.” William B. Eedmans Publishing Company, 2016, Kindle location 1866 to 2742.
Hodge, A. A. (1823-1886). “Popular lectures on theological themes” in Presbyterian Board of Publication, 1887, p. 68-93. See notation on Archibald Alexander above. In this lecture, Hodge says, “The kind of evidence by which we establish the canonicity of each of the books of the New Testament is precisely the same as that by which we prove the authenticity and genuineness of any ancient classic. The only difference is that in behalf of the books of the New Testament the evidence is incomparably more abundant.”
Hodges, George. The Early Church: From Ignatius to Augustine. Houghton Mifflin, 1915, 312 pages. (Kindle edition: Didactic Press, 2014)
Hunter, Archibald M. Paul and His Predecessors. The Westminster Press, 1940, 1961, 154 pgs. Hunter demonstrates a number of ways in which Paul was dependent on pre-Pauline Christianity – and specifically its oral tradition – for his gospel, message, and ministry. The focus is on the period roughly 33-50 A.D. – that is, the time from the resurrection of Christ to the time Paul first began writing letters.
Hurtado, Larry W. “The New Testament in the Second Century: Text, Collections and Canon” in Transmission and Reception: New Testament Text-Critical and Exegetical Studies, eds. J.W. Childers & D. C. Parker. Gorgias Press, 2006. p. 3-27. Also available on Hurtado’s blog.
__________. The Earliest Christian Artifacts: Manuscripts and Christian Origins. Eerdmans, 2006.
Jansen, John F. “Tertullian and the New Testament,” in The Second Century: A Journal of Early Christian Studies, Vol. 2, No. 4, Winter, 1982, pp. 191-207. Jansen deals successively with how Tertullian regarded the canon, text, authority, and interpretation of the New Testament writings. Of course, “canon” is an anachronism with regard to Tertullian; that said, he has citations or clear allusions to all of the New Testament books except for James, 2 Peter, 2 John, and 3 John (though some scholars do see allusions to James and 2 Peter).
Jerome (347-420). Letter 53 (To Paulinus, Ad Paulinum). 394. At 53:9, he addresses the canon. See Jerome on the New Testament Canon. For chronology of all Jerome’s writings see Fourth-Century Christianity.
Jones, Timothy Paul. How We Got the Bible. Rose Publishing, 2016, Kindle edition.
Josephus (37-100). Josephus: The Complete Works. Translated by William Whiston. Thomas Nelson, 1998, 1159 pages. These works can also be found online at this page on ccel.org (Christian Classics Ethereal Library). A supplemental source is earlychristianwritings.com.
Just, Felix. “The New Testament Canon” (a website of notes and explanations) at catholic-resources.org.
Kalin, Everett R. “The New Testament Canon of Eusebius” in The Canon Debate, ed. by McDonald and Sanders. Baker Academic, 2002. Kalin interacts extensively with Robbins (see below).
Kelly, Joseph F. Why is there a New Testament? Michael Glazier, 1986, 200 pgs (incl. bibliography, glossary, and index). Kelly is professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at John Carroll University, having received his doctorate at Fordham University – both Jesuit schools. Moreover, Michael Glazier is a Catholic publisher. Nonetheless, this book is an introductory-level book for a general (i.e. non-specialist) Christian audience and its Roman Catholic sensibilities are muted. It leans liberal in terms of critical scholarship.
Kenyon, Frederic G. The Story of the Bible: A Popular Account of How it Came to Us. Murray, 1936. 2nd edition with supplementary material by F.F. Bruce, 1964. This book is available online through Michael D. Marlowe. Another online version is available through worldinvisible.com.
Kinzig, Wolfram. “Kaine Diatheke: The Title of the New Testament in the Second and Third Centuries” in Journal of Theological Studies, NS, Vol. 45, Pt. 2, October 1994; reprinted in Norms of Faith and Life, 1999, ed. by Everett Ferguson). Kinzig argues that Marcion introduced the use of “New Testament” as referring to a list of writings, that the church then adopted it before the orthodox canon took its final shape, and that it was ultimately adopted by the church’s theologians (e.g. Tertullian, Origen, and Augustine) because it was a term understood so widely – and it enabled to the church to have a bipartite canon with which to oppose both Marcionism and Judaism. (See esp. p. 543-544)
Kirby, Peter. Early Christian Writings (website). 2015.
Kostenberger, Andreas J and L. Scott Kellum and Charles L. Quarles. The Cradle, the Cross, and the Crown: An Introduction to the New Testament. B&H Academic, 2009. Presents the New Testament in a clear and strong Evangelical perspective.
Kostenberger, Andreas J. and Michael J. Kruger. The Heresy of Orthodoxy: How Contemporary Culture’s Fascination with Diversity has Reshaped Our Understanding of Early Christianity. Crossway, 2010, 256 pages.
Kruger, Michael J. “The Authenticity of 2 Peter,” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 42.4 (1999): 645-671.
__________. See “Kostenberger, Andreas J. and Michael J. Kruger” above.
__________. Canon Revisited: Establishing the Origins and Authority of New Testament Books. Crossway, 2012.
__________. “The Origins of the New Testament Canon” – a series of four lectures delivered at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, FL as the Kistemaker Academic Lectures in the Spring of 2012. This lecture series is similar, but not identical, to the series delivered in Charlotte in 2013 (see below); Kruger delivers this series at a more deliberate pace.
__________. The Question of Canon: Challenging the Status Quo in the New Testament Debate. IVP Academic, 2013.
__________. “The Canonization of the New Testament” – a series of four lectures delivered at Reformed Theological Seminary in Charlotte, NC on March 18, 2013 (iTunesU). See note on Kruger’s 2012 lecture series above.
__________. “Origen’s List of New Testament Books in Homilliae in Josuam 7.1: A Fresh Look” in Mark, Manuscripts, and Monotheism, ed. Chris Keith & Dieter Roth (Bloomsbury T&T Clark, 2014), 99-117, outlined in this blog post by Larry W. Hurtado.
Lea, Thomas D. and David Alan Black. The New Testament: Its Background and Message, 2nd edition. B&H Academic, 2003, 676 pages.
Licona, Michael R. “The New Testament: Text, Translation, Canon” (lecture at 2014 Tactical Faith Conference on YouTube – 46:50).
Lightfoot, Neil R. How We Got the Bible. Baker Books, 3rd edition (revised and expanded), 2003, Kindle edition, 225 print pages. There are over one million copies of this book in print. It was originally published in 1963, and again in 1988; then came this revised and expanded version in 2003.
Litfin, Bryan M. Getting to Know the Church Fathers: An Evangelical Introduction. Brazos, 2007, 304 pages, Kindle edition.
__________. After Acts: Exploring the Lives and Legends of the Apostles. Moody, 2015, 199 pages, Kindle edition.
Limbaugh, David. Jesus on Trial: A Lawyer Affirms the Truth of the Gospel. Regnery, 2014, Kindle edition. Chapters 7 through 10 deal with text and canon.
March, W. Eugene. Editor. Texts and Testaments: Critical Essays on the Bible and Early Church Fathers: a volume in honor of Stuart Dickson Currie. Trinity University Press, 1980, 321 pages. Several essays in this collection are relevant to the focus on this bibliography. See Balas, Farkasfalvy, and Ferguson (all above) and Outler (below).
Marlowe, Michael D. “The Canon of Scripture” (a section of bible-researcher.com).
Martin, Ralph P. (1925-2013). “Authority in the Light of the Apostolate, Tradition and the Canon,” The Evangelical Quarterly 40.2 (April-June 1968): 66-82. Martin argues that the apostles received their authority from Christ and that the New Testament is, in effect, successor to their authority. He relies, in part, on Geldenhuys (see above).
McBirnie, William Steuart. The Search for the Twelve Apostles. Tyndale House, 1973, Kindle edition.
McDonald, Lee M. and James A. Sanders. The Canon Debate. Baker Academic, 2002.
McDonald, Lee M. The Biblical Canon. Baker Academic, 2007. (Revised from The Formation of the Biblical Canon, Revised and Expanded Edition, 1995.)
__________. The Origin of the Bible: A Guide for the Perplexed. T & T Clark, 2011.
McDowell, Sean. The Fate of the Apostles: Examining the Martyrdom Accounts of the Closest Followers of Jesus. Ashgate, 2015, Kindle edition.
Metzger, Bruce M. The Canon of the New Testament: Its Origin, Development, and Significance. Oxford University Press, 1987.
__________. The Bible in Translation: Ancient and English Versions. Baker Academic, 2001.
__________, and Bart D. Ehrman. The Text of the New Testament: Its Transmission, Corruption, and Restoration, 4th edition. Oxford University Press, 2005, 366 pages.
Monergism. “Formation of the Canon” which is a collection of links to over a hundred articles and other resources on the subject of the biblical canon.
Moore, Dunlop. “The Beginning and Growth of the Canon of the New Testament” in The Presbyterian and Reformed Review, Vol. 7, No. 25, January 1896, 33 pages. Moore interacts with Westcott, Zahn, and Harnack. He closes with a personal testimony about the self-evident quality of Paul’s letters.
Morrow, Jonathan. “Has the Biblical Text Been Corrupted over the Centuries?” in Questioning the Bible: 11 Major Challenges to the Bible’s Authority (Chapter 6). Moody, 2014.
Moule, C. F. D. (1908-2007). The Birth of the New Testament, 3rd edition, (Black’s New Testament Commentaries). Adam and Charles Black, 1981 (1966, 1961), 382 pages.
Outler, Albert C. “The ‘Logic’ of Canon-making and the Tasks of Canon-criticism” (1980, 14 pages) in Texts and Testaments edited by March (see above).
Patzia, Arthur G. The Making of the New Testament: Origin, Collection, Text & Canon. IVP Academic, 1995, 2011.
Packer, J. I. “Fundamentalism” and the Word of God. Eerdmans, 1958, 191 pages.
Pickering, Wilbur N. The Identity of the New Testament Text IV. WNP, 2014, 392 pages.
Pitre, Brant. The Case for Jesus: The Biblical and Historical Evidence for Christ. Image (Penguin Random House), 2016, Kindle edition, 258 pages in the print edition. Pitre (Ph.D., University of Notre Dame) is Professor of Sacred Scripture at Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans. Bishop Robert Barron writes the Afterword. Pitre points out that widespread modern skepticism about the reliability of the Gospel texts (a la Bart Ehrman and his harping on “The Telephone Game”) undermines and sidelines C. S. Lewis’s otherwise powerful Trilemma. Thus, while the focus of this book is Christ and His claims to divinity, it makes its case by speaking about text and canon (authorship); and though he writes only about the Gospels, his principles can be applied to the rest of the New Testament as well.
Pitts, Andrew W. and Joshua F. Walker. “The Authorship of Hebrews: A Further Development in the Luke-Paul Relationship” in Paul and His Social Relations. Edited by Stanley E. Porter and Christopher D. Land. Leiden: Brill, 2013. Pitts and Walker argue that “…Hebrews likely represents a Pauline speech, probably originally delivered in a Diaspora synagogue, which Luke documented in some way during their travels together and which Luke later published as an independent speech to be circulated among house churches in the Jewish-Christian Diaspora.” They reference David Alan Black, whose book on the authorship of Hebrews can be found above.
Porter, Stanley E. How We Got the New Testament: Text, Transmission, Translation. Baker Academic, 2013, Kindle edition.
Porter, Stanley E. and Andrew W. Pitts. Fundamentals of New Testament Textual Criticism. Eerdmans, 2015, 202 pages.
Poster, Carol. “Ethos, Authority, and the Development of the New Testament Canon” in Rhetoric, Ethic, and Moral Persuasion in Biblical Discourse Ed. Thomas H. Olbricht and Anders Eriksson. T&T Clark, 2005.
Reuss, Edward (1804-1891). History of the Canon of the Holy Scriptures in the Christian Church. Translated by David Hunter. Gemmell, 1884, 430 pages. Reuss was a liberal Lutheran focused on history. Abraham (see above) seems to lean on Reuss’ historical analysis.
Reynolds, L. D., and N. G. Wilson. Scribes and Scholars: A Guide to the Transmission of Greek and Latin Literature. Oxford University Press, 1968, 1974, 1991, 2013.
Richards, E. Randolph. “The Codex and the Early Collection of Paul’s Letters” in Bulletin for Biblical Research 8 (1998) 151-166. Suggests Paul as the first collector of his letters. See Foster 1967 and Trobisch 1994 who think along similar lines.
__________. Paul and First-Century Letter Writing: Secretaries, Composition and Collection. IVP Academic and Apollos, 2004, 252 pages. This is a popularization and amplification of his 1991 scholarly monograph The Secretary in the Letters of Paul.
Ridderbos, Herman N. Redemptive History and the New Testament Scriptures (formerly titled The Authority of the New Testament Scriptures). Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 1963, second revised edition 1988, 91 pages. The original Dutch edition was published in 1955.
Robbins, Gregory Allen. “Eusebius’ Lexicon of ‘Canonicity’” Studia Patristica, vol. 25, edited by E. A. Livingstone, 134-141. Peeters, 1993. Robbins’ views are engaged by Kalin (see above).
Robinson, John A. T. Redating the New Testament. SCM Press, 1976, 370 pages. Though a study of text and canon does not require precision dating for the New Testament books, some claims to dating are noteworthy and this book is one of them.
Rudd, Steve. The Canon of the Bible (website). The scholarly resources here lean right (in contrast to Trowbridge below).
Samples, Kenneth R. “How We Got the Bible” – a series of three blog posts.
Sawyer, M. James. “Evangelicals and the Canon of the New Testament” in Grace Theological Journal 11.1 (1991) 29-52.
__________. “The Canon of the New Testament” in How the Bible Came to Be (see Hays, J. Daniel above).
Schaff, Philip (1819-1893). Editor. The Complete Ante-Nicene & Nicene and Post-Nicene Church Fathers Collection. Catholic Way Publishing, 2014 (originally published 1886-1900). This collection can also be found online at this page of ccel.org (Christian Classics Ethereal Library). A supplemental source is earlychristianwritings.com. You may be able to find others as well.
__________. History of the Christian Church: The Complete Eight Volumes in One. Originally published 1880; Amazon Digital Services, 2014, Kindle edition.
Schroter, Jens. From Jesus to the New Testament: Early Christian Theology and the Origin of the New Testament Canon. Baylor University Press and Mohr Siebeck, 2013, 417 pages; originally published in German, 2007.
Seitz, Christopher R. The Character of Christian Scripture: The Significance of a Two-Testament Bible (Studies in Theological Interpretation). Baker Academic, 2011, 224 pages.
Smith, James E. Which Books Belong in the Bible? Lulu, 2009, 436 pages.
Stark, Rodney. The Triumph of Christianity: How the Jesus Movement Became the World’s Largest Religion. HarperOne, 2011, Kindle edition.
Stewart, Don. “Why Is the Bible Divided into Chapters and Verses?” at BlueLetterBible.org.
Strauss, Mark L. “The Inspiration of the Bible” in How the Bible Came to Be (see Hays, J. Daniel above).
Souter, Alexander. The Text and Canon of the New Testament. Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1913.
Sundberg, Albert C. “Canon Muratori: A Fourth-Century List.” Harvard Theological Review, 1973. For context on Sundberg, see notes on Zahn below.
Theron, Daniel J. Evidence of Tradition: Selected Source Material for the Study of the History of the Early Church, the New Testament Books, and the New Testament Canon. Baker Book House, 1957 (Wipf & Stock reprint, 2009).
Thiessen, Gesa Elsbeth. Apostolic and Prophetic: Ecclesiological Perspectives. Cascade (Wipf & Stock), 2011, Kindle edition, print length 206 pages. My interest in this book is confined to the first chapter, which is “Ad fontes: Apostolicity in the Early Church.” And even in those 16 pages, I am concerned only with what she has to say about the apostles and their authority – not apostolic succession per se, which is a focus for her. See also Burkhard 2004 (above), a work upon which Thiessen leans.
Tregelles, Samuel P. (1813-1875). A Lecture on the Historic Evidence of the Authorship and Transmission of the Books of the New Testament. Samuel Bagster and Sons, 1852, 136 pages. This book was recommended to me by Timothy McGrew. Following the logic of Augustine, who wrote (in Contra Faustum 33:6) that we can know the authorship of the New Testament books by the same means we know the authorship of any secular book from antiquity, Tregelles demonstrates that the authors of the New Testament books are who the New Testament declares them to be. See my Notes on Tregelles re: Authorship of the New Testament Books. See also my notes on Augustine, above.
Trobisch, David J. Paul’s Letter Collection: Tracing the Origins. Augsburg Fortress, 1994. Suggests Paul was involved in the first collection of his letters. Compare with Richards 1998 who generally agrees, and with Foster 1967 who suggests Luke was the earliest collector of these letters.
__________. “The Oldest Extant Editions of the Letters of Paul” (online article from religion-online.org, 1999).
__________. The First Edition of the New Testament. Oxford University Press, 2000.
__________. “Canon: III. Formation of the New Testament” in Encyclopedia of the Bible and its Reception Vol. 4, ed. by Hans-Josef Klauck et al. De Gruyter, 2012, p. 897-901. (linked from Trobisch’s website)
Trowbridge, Geoff. A Brief History of the New Testament (website). The author indicates that 2005 was the last time he made changes to the site. Some of the links are no longer functioning. Still, there are some resources to be gained here that I have not found elsewhere. The scholarship referenced generally leans left (in contrast to Rudd above).
Turek, Frank. “How Do We Know That The New Testament Was Written in the 1st Century?” (YouTube video – 1:42)
Wallace, J. Warner. “Testing the Gospels From John to Hippolytus” – a blog post at ColdCaseChristianity.com. Wallace details the relationship of the apostle John (1st century) – to Ignatius, Polycarp, and Papias (early 2nd century) – to Irenaeus (late 2nd century) – to Hippolytus (3rd century).
Warfield, B. B. “The Formation of the Canon of the New Testament.” American Sunday School Union, 1892.
Wenzig, Tim L. New Testament Canon and the Creeds: Why Was the Authority of Scripture Left Out of the Christian Creeds? Amazon Digital Services, 2012, Kindle edition, 24 print pages. Wenzig’s thesis, and the conclusion of his book, is that “the authority of the corpus of apostolic writings we call the New Testament was so universally used as foundational in their development that no mention of them within those Creeds was deemed necessary” (Kindle location 551).
Werner, Martin (1887-1964). The Formation of Christian Dogma: An Historical Study of Its Problem. Translated by S. G. F. Brandon. Beacon, 1957, 352 pages. The first edition of the book was published in 1941, a second edition in 1954, and an English edition in 1957. Following the lead of Albert Schweitzer (to whom Werner dedicated the book), this Swiss liberal theologian attempts to explain what happened to Christian thinking when the eschatological hope of Jesus and the apostles was deferred beyond the apostolic age. (Comment on Schweitzer and Werner by Hans Schwarz in Eschatology.) The scholarly community never embraced the eschatological views of Schweitzer and Werner, but no honest, reasonable person who reads the New Testament could deny that Jesus and the apostles expected the Parousia in their generation.
Wikipedia. “Muratorian Fragment”
__________. “Development of the New Testament canon”
__________. “New Testament”
__________. “Red-Letter Edition”
Westcott, Brooke Foss. A General Survey of the History of the Canon of the New Testament, 4th edition. Macmillan, 1875. For context on Westcott, see notes on Zahn below.
Wrede, William. The Origin of the New Testament. Translated by James S. Hill. Harper, 1909, Kindle facsimile.
Young, Stephen L. “Review of David Dungan, Constantine’s Bible: Politics and the Making of the New Testament” in Journal of Greco-Roman Christianity and Judaism 5 (2008): 156–68.
Zahn, Theodor. Geschichte des neutestamentlichen Kanons. Deichert, 1888-1892. This massive German work (“Researches into the history of the New Testament canon” – published in two volumes) has yet to be translated into English and so it is inaccessible to me. I include it here nevertheless because it is a landmark in the study of New Testament canon, and is cited as such by many sources listed in this bibliography. Zahn (1838-1933) said the canon was largely formed in the 1st Century. He was slightly preceded in that point of view by English scholar B. F. Westcott. Fellow German Adolph von Harnack challenged this idea, saying it was rather the 2nd Century. Harnack seemed to sway most critical scholars, and Hans von Campenhausen subsequently reinforced Harnack’s general position. In more recent times, Albert C. Sundberg (subsequently reinforced by Geoffrey Mark Hahneman) has said both Zahn and Harnack were dating the canon prematurely, arguing that the 4th and 5th centuries are the proper dating for NT canon formation. Around this framing, modern scholarship on the NT canon has taken place. John Barton gives a helpful overview of this scholarly history in the first chapter of Holy Writings (especially p. 1-11), explaining that these differences have less to do with history than with the different ways these men understood the word “canon.” Semantics and anachronism are one of the obstacles found in studying the history of how 27 separate writings became the New Testament.
The Reliability of the New Testament (Textual Corruption) – YouTube. (from the InspiringPhilosophy YouTube channel)
This video quotes Dan Wallace, Darrell Bock, and Craig Evans. Perhaps its greatest value is in demonstrating one-by-one that the textual variants presented by skeptics like Bart Ehrman are not signficant.
The chief limitation of the video is that it fails to explain how much more sure we can be of the New Testament’s fidelity to what was originally written than we can about any other ancient document.
Luke Muehlhauser grew up Christian but renounced his faith and became a vocal atheist. One of his endeavors in this regard is the blog Common Sense Atheism. In one of his blog posts there, he points out the how reliable is the text of documents he no longer believes.
Although Luke heartily agrees with Ehrman’s rejection of Christian faith (Ehrman, too, is a former evangelical Christian), he chides Ehrman for misrepresenting just how reliable the New Testament text is, especially when compared with all other ancient texts.
What is Ehrman’s fault is how astonishingly misleading his book is. He writes that “there are more variations among our manuscripts than there are words in the New Testament” (p 90), and that the manuscripts “differ from one another in so many places that we don’t even know how many differences there are” (p 10). Ehrman gives the impression that there are so many variants in our manuscripts that we could never know what the New Testament authors originally wrote.
But of course Ehrman knows (p 87) that the vast number of textual variants we have is a blessing not a curse, because his books for a scholarly audience spend every page using those variants to reconstruct the original text. In comparison, we can do no such thing with the works of Plato: our earliest manuscript comes 1200 years after Plato lived! We have no hope of reconstructing Plato’s original text, but when it comes to the New Testament we have thousands of copies, and dozens of manuscripts from within just two centuries of the originals.
Reject the New Testament if you wish, but don’t try to claim that you’re doing so because we can’t really be sure what the New Testament authors wrote.
His discussion of canon begins about 24:38.
The canon of the New Testament developed slowly and gradually over several centuries. The purpose of this timeline is to identify some of the notable steps in the process that led from the writing of the 27 documents in the 1st Century AD to the New Testament being what we find today. Therefore, all dates below are A. D.
30’s-90’s – The 27 writings which constitute our New Testament were authored. In these writings, we see the two nuclei of the New Testament (i.e. categories or collections) specified: narratives of Jesus’ life (i.e. gospels) and epistles. The Gospels are identified, though not named, as a genre in Luke 1:1-4, and the epistles are identified as a genre in 2 Peter 3:18 and elsewhere. Paul quotes Luke 10:7 in 1 Timothy 5:18, referring to it as “Scripture.” Peter equates Paul’s letters with “the Scriptures” in 2 Peter 3:15-16.
95-120 – We learn from Papias (through Eusebius) that Peter was the source for Mark’s Gospel.
110 – By this time, Ignatius has quoted in his letters 25 of the 27 books of the New Testament.
125 – Polycarp quotes Ephesians twice in his letter to the Philippians, referring to it as part of the “Sacred Scriptures.”
130-140 – Marcion forms his idiosyncratic canon, consisting of an edited form of Luke and 10 of Paul’s letters, thus implying the existence of a larger canon from which he was departing.
150 – Justin Martyr refers to the “memoirs of the apostles” as being read alongside the “writings of the prophets.” (Source: Wikipedia, see at bottom of this chronology)
160 (c. 172?) – Tatian (a disciple of Justin Martyr) composes a harmony of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John – called The Diatesseron.
c. 170* – The Muratorian fragment is a copy of perhaps the oldest known list of the books of the New Testament (hence references to “the Muratorian canon”). The fragment, consisting of 85 lines, is a 7th-century Latin manuscript containing internal cues suggesting it is a translation from a Greek original written about 170 *or as late as the 4th century (see Sundberg and also Hahneman, bibliography). The text of the list itself is traditionally dated to about 170 because its author refers to Pius I, bishop of Rome (142—157), as recent: ” But Hermas wrote The Shepherd very recently, in our times, in the city of Rome, while bishop Pius, his brother, was occupying the chair of the church of the city of Rome. And therefore it ought indeed to be read; but it cannot be read publicly to the people in church either among the Prophets, whose number is complete, or among the Apostles, for it is after their time.”
c. 180 – Melito, bishop of Sardis, “is usually cited as the oldest witness to the title “New Testament.” Although he does not use the term explicitly, it is implied by his use of the title “Old Testament,” which is introduced without further explanation (Eusebius, Hist. eccl. 4.26.13–14)” per Trobisch 2012.
180 – Irenaeus refers to the “fourfold form” of the gospel. “We know from Ireneaus…that the bulk of the New Testament was being used and recognized as central texts by the end of the second century.” – Darrell Bock
208 – Tertullian applies the term “New Testament” to the apostolic writings, though without appearing to consider it novel to do so.
240’s – Origen (residing in Caesaria in Palestine) acknowledged all 27 of the New Testament books but reported that James, 2 Peter, 2 and 3 John, and Jude were disputed.
c. 300 – Eusebius gives a similar report to Origen’s (see above), adding that some had doubts about Hebrews and Revelation. Still, his two categories of “undisputed” and “disputed but known to most” contain only the 27 and no more. He named five other books (The Acts of Paul, The Sheperd of Hermas, The Apocalypse of Peter, The Letter of Barnabas, and The Didache) which were known to many churches but which, he believed, had to be judged as spurious.
303-313 – The Roman emperor Diocletian issued an edict (in 303, and which remained in effect until 313) to promote religious uniformity and calling for the burning of Christianity’s sacred writings (McDonald, The Canon Debate, 2002, Kindle location 9378). Dungan (bibliography, p. 68) attributes the persecution to Diocletian, Galerius, Maxentius, and Maximian – calling it “the Great Persecution of 303-313.”
306 – Constantine begins to reign as Roman emperor.
311 – The persecution abates somewhat, though it did continue sporadically in the East.
312 – Constantine becomes a Christian. Constantine, though greatly outnumbered, defeats Maxentius at the Milvian Bridge. Maxentius was drowned in the Tiber River, and so Constantine took sole possession of the Roman Empire’s western half. Constantine, having claimed to see a miraculous sign in the heavens prior to the battle, attributed his great victory to the God of Christianity.
313 – Christianity tolerated. Constantine and Licinius jointly issue the Edict of Milan (Edict of Toleration) which proclaimed “the Christians and all others should have liberty to follow that mode of religion which to each of them appeared best…” (Dungan, p. 67, bibliography; Litfin 2007, bibliography)
313 – Eusebius named bishop of Caesaria.
315 – Eusebius completes Books 1-7 of Ecclesiastical History; Books 8-10 were completed by 325 (Dungan, bibliography, p. 157). Eusebius, the first church historian, wrote in EH 3.25 that the church recognized 22 books and letters for inclusion in what we today call the New Testament. The five books he described as “disputed” were James, Jude, 2 Peter, 2 John, and 3 John.
321 – Constantine proclaims Sunday as the universal day of rest.
324 – Constantine defeats Licinius to become sole emperor of the Roman Empire, uniting the western and eastern halves.
325 – Eusebius completes Books 8-10 of Ecclesiastical History before the Council of Nicea; Books 1-7 were completed by 315 (Dungan, bibliography, p. 120, 157).
325 – The First Council of Nicaea takes place by order of the Roman emperor Caesar Flavius Constantine. (GotQuestions.org). Though The DaVinci Code has caused many people to think that this council deliberated about or decided upon which writings would comprise the New Testament, there is no historical support for this notion. Per Dungan, there were approximately 300 bishops in attendance, most from the East. Adding presbyters, deacons, along with their servants and attendants, the total of those who came was about 2,000. This council was the first of seven ecumenical councils of the church held between 325 and 787: Nicaea (325), Constantinople (381), Ephesus (431), Chalcedon (451), Constantinople (553), Constantinople (680), Nicaea (787). None of these councils was called to address the question of canon because it was never an issue of controversy. That would await the Council of Trent (1545-1563) which affirmed the 27-book New Testament canon.
c. 325-350 – Codex Vaticanus
c. 330-360 – Codex Sinaiticus
332 – The Roman emperor Constantine writes to Eusebius, bishop of Caesaria, commissioning the production of “fifty copies of the divine scriptures.” (Gamble, Books and Readers in the Early Church, 1995, p. 79.)
337 – Constantine dies at the age of 65; the empire is divided among his three sons. The middle son, Constantius, emerged as the most powerful of them (Litfin 2007, Kindle loc 2725, bibliography
339 – Eusebius dies at the age of 81.
350 – Cyril of Jerusalem gives a canon of all 27 books except that he excluded Revelation (because he did not believe that John wrote it) and included the Gospel of Thomas (the only ancient church father to have done so).
363-364 – The Council of Laodicea: a regional synod of approximately thrity clerics from Asia Minor. The Laodicean Synod had a canon that matches Cyril’s except that they excluded the Gospel of Thomas (and it never appeared in another canon). This was a 26 book canon; it included exactly the books we have except for Revelation.
367 – In his annual Easter letter (“festal letter”), Athanasius (293-373), Bishop of Alexandria, gave a list of the 27 books that match our New Testament canon (the first such list in antiquity) using the word “canon” (meaning a list of writings) in connection with it. He also named several other books as useful for catechizing but not to be considered a part of the canon.
373 – Athanasius dies at the (approximate) age of 75.
379-395 – The reign of Roman Emperor Theodosius, during which paganism was outlawed and Christianity received the official imperial endorsement. (Litfin 2007, Kindle loc 4648, bibliography)
380 – The Edict of Thessalonica makes Nicene Christianity the state church of the Roman Empire – that is, the Empire’s sole authorized religion
382-383 – Pope Damasus commissions Jerome to produce a standard Latin translation of the Bible (Dungan, p. 157, bibliography). This translation would come to be called “The Vulgate” – referring to its use of common or colloquial speech. The Vulgate would become the normative Bible for the Western church. It used the same canonical list that Athanasius had given in 367 and that is the same as we see in our Bibles today, though the order of the books varies slightly.
386 – Augustine converts to Christianity.
390 – Gregory of Nazianus gives a canon of 27 books identical to Athanasius’ and ours.
393 – The Synod of Hippo ratifies the 27-book canon. (Geisler, From God to Us, p. 140) “Augustine of Hippo threw his weight behind the list and pushed its acceptance” (Ehrman, Lost Christianities, p. 244-245)
394 – Jerome affirms the 27.
395 – Augustine installed as bishop of Hippo.
395-400 – Augustine affirms the 27.
397 – The Council of Carthage ratifies the 27-book canon. (Geisler, From God to Us, p. 140)
397 – The Third Synod of Carthage Synod left out Revelation, reducing the total to 26.
397 – Augustine writes the first three books (the fourth and final being written in 426) of On Christian Doctrine (De doctrina christiana), in which, per Dungan (p. 134), he “closed the door, as far as western Christianity was concerned, on any further discussion regarding which books should be in the Bible.” (Doctr. chr. 2.8.12)
405-410 – Augustine writes On the Harmony of the Evangelists, to refute allegations of inconsistencies in the Gospels.
419 – The Carthage Synod reconvenes and includes Revelation, affirming the 27.
(summarizing 393-419) – The African Canons affirm the 27. (Three councils were held at Hippo (393, 394, 426) and more synods – also in 397 (two sessions), June and September and 401, all under Aurelius.)
We can see that the publication of the New Testament canon came well after New Testament times. There was no central church authority to control the discussion. It was a debate among many geographically-dispersed churches. For more on how the books were chosen, see Criteria for the Canon of the New Testament.
420 – Jerome dies at the age of 73.
430 – Augustine dies at the age of 75.
1227 – Stephen Langton, a professor at the University of Paris and later the Archbishop of Canterbury, divides the Bible (Vulgate) into chapters. (New Testament Statistics)
1384 – In defiance of Roman Catholic Church hierarchy, John Wycliffe translates the Latin Vulgate into English.
1448 – The Hebrew Old Testament was divided into verses by a Jewish rabbi by the name of Nathan. (gotQuestions.org)
1450 – The German printer Johannes Gutenberg invents movable-type mechanical printing in Europe.
1455 – Gutenberg produces what is considered to be the first book ever printed: a Latin language Bible, printed in Mainz, Germany. Called the Gutenberg Bible, it is an edition of the Vulgate. Today, 48 copies (some partial) are still extant.
1514 – The first Greek New Testament was printed.
1522 – The Greek New Testament printed in 1514 was published and distributed. The delay was due to political issues involved in getting papal approval of the project.
1522 – Martin Luther translates the Greek New Testament into German for the masses.
1525 – Inspired by Luther’s translation of the Greek New Testament into German, William Tyndale begins translating the Greek New Testament into English. Tyndale’s translation was the first English Bible to draw directly from Hebrew and Greek texts, the first English one to take advantage of the printing press, and first of the new English Bibles of the Reformation. Much of the 1611 King James Version takes its English phrasing from Tyndale’s work.
1534 – Martin Luther translates the Hebrew Bible into German for the masses, making for a complete Bible in German. Per Dungan (p. 136-137) and Metzger (p. 242), Luther relegated Hebrews and James to the back of the New Testament with Jude and Revelation, regarding all four as unworthy of the attention that should be given to the rest. No other reformers followed Luther, and the (Roman Catholic) Council of Trent concurred with the other reformers (though they might not have described their action in that way).
1545-1563 – The Council of Trent gives status to the Latin Vulgate as the official translation of the Roman Catholic Church. This is the first, and only, ecumenical church council convened for the purpose, even in part, of resolving disagreements about the biblical canon..and even it, because it was Roman Catholic, did not involve Protestant or Eastern Orthodox Christianity. The biblical canon was not a matter of controversy in Christian antiquity. Moreover, the Canon of Trent (1546) affirmed, and did not alter in any way, the New Testament canon established by the ancient church.
1555 – The first entire Bible in which these chapter and verse divisions were used was Stephen’s edition of the Latin Vulgate. (New Testament Statistics)
1560 – The first English New Testament to have both chapter and verse divisions was the Geneva Bible. (Blue Letter Bible)
1611 – The King James Version of the English Bible was published.
1899 – Louis Klopsch conceives the idea of printing the words of Jesus in red based on Jesus’ statement in Luke 22:20 KJV.
1901 – The first red-letter Bible is published.
1971 – The New American Standard Bible is published. The publication of the NASB began with the Gospel of John in 1960, followed by the four Gospels in 1962, the New Testament in 1963, and the entire Bible in 1971. The Greek edition used by the NASB revisers was the 23rd edition of the Nestle text.
1995 – The New American Standard Bible’s latest revision.
Kruger, Michael J. “The Canonization of the New Testament” – a series of four lectures delivered at Reformed Theological Seminary in Charlotte, NC on March 18, 2013 (iTunesU).
Stewart, Don. “Why Is the Bible Divided into Chapters and Verses?” at BlueLetterBible.org.
Dungan, David L. Constantine’s Bible: Politics and the Making of the New Testament. Fortress Press, 2007.
Licona, Michael R. “The New Testament: Text, Translation, Canon” (lecture at 2014 Tactical Faith Conference on YouTube – 46:50)
Turek, Frank. “How Do We Know That The New Testament Was Written in the 1st Century?” (YouTube video – 1:42)
Wikipedia. “Muratorian Fragment”
__________. “Development of the New Testament canon”
__________. “New Testament”
__________. “Red-Letter Edition”
For all other sources referenced, see Bibliography.
Ignatius, an early church father, by 110 AD, had quoted from 25 of the 27 New Testament books. So these books must have been written in the 1st Century for Ignatius to have quoted 25 out of 27 of them. (0:54 to 1:11)
The Reliability of the New Testament (Introduction) – YouTube. (www.inspiringphilosophy.org)
This video provides a comprehensive overview of the textual evidence behind the New Testament. It shows why we can be more confident that we are reading what was originally written than we can about any other ancient document.
Frank Turek begins this video by saying that if you’re going to answer the question, “Is the New Testament True?” then you have to ask the question in two parts:
- Do we have an accurate copy of the New Testament documents?
- Did the original New Testament documents tell the truth?
He spends only the first 3-4 minutes discussing the first question. The rest of the video is spent on the second.
Mike Kruger’s closing words in this article:
Although we can acknowledge that absolute certainty about every single variant is unattainable, we can also acknowledge that absolute certainty is not necessary. We can recover a text so very close to the original that it is more than sufficient for accurately communicating the message of the Scriptures.
(3 min read; 768 words)