The Librarians


What are Canons?

Canons derive from the Greek word "kanon" which refers to the standard or measurement by which something is evaluated or judged. The religious meaning of canon is an official inventory of books that a religious community regards as its authoritative source of doctrinal and ethical beliefs. Inside the New Testament canon there are twenty-seven book that include the Canonical Gospels, Acts, the letters of the apostles, and Revelation.

Intro to Canons

  • Initially, each New Testament book appeared as an individual document

  • For example, the four most famous Books, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, were written for separate geographical peoples.

  • Then, different Christian organizations grouped certain books into different “canons”.

  • A canon is a group of books that Christian organization views as “divinely inspired”, or official to that group.

How Canons Came About

A large number of Gospels, all purporting to represent Jesus’ authentic teachings, had also been composed. In the first and second century many different people or church leaders wrote their own canons about Jesus’ life. There are infancy stories. Many are different from one another and also digress from each other. Many were written mostly in the first century and finished by the year 150 AD.

People have wondered which canon is right. This lead to people deciding what is accepted or not in the church.

Examples of Different Canons

  • Muratorian Canon: “The Muratorian Canon, which scholars once dated to the late second or early third century CE but now think was probably assembled in the fourth century, is typical of the mixed bag of canonical and apocryphal books found in different church catalogues. Listing twenty-four books, the Muratorian Canon includes the four Gospels, Acts, thirteen letters ascribed to Paul (but not Hebrews), Jude, 1 and 2 (but not 3) John, the Wisdom of Solomon, Revelation, and the Apocalypse of Peter. The Muratorian list excludes five books that finally achieved canonical status, but it includes a Greek Wisdom book that was ultimately assigned to the Old Testament Apocrypha and an “apostolic” vision of hell that was not included in any canon.”

  • Latin Vulgate: It renders Scripture into the “vulgar” (common) Latin of the western Roman Empire, this landmark work remains the official Bible of the Roman Catholic Church.

  • (Pratt Ferdinand): Origen decided to make his canon include all of the books in the current Catholic canon except for four books: James, 2nd Peter, and the 2nd and 3rd epistles of John. He also included the Shepherd of Hermas which was later rejected.

  • Luther’s Canon: Martin Luther attempted to make his own canon. He wanted to remove the books of Hebrews, James, Jude, and Revelations.

What Happened to the Canons?

-In the beginning stories were very specific (Ex. Deep descriptions of the birth of Jesus, stories about the journeys of the apostles)

-Many of the stories were written in the second and third centuries

-What leads to the mystery of the canon is that there were four different views accepted as tradition

-Why were certain views accepted by the church and others denied?

-Tatian created the Diatessaron, which combined all the stories of Jesus into one

-The reason that Tatian’s idea was shut down was that only one Gospel did not incorporate enough of the views of the different Gospels that were written

-Irenaeus was one of the first to suggest four Gospels

-Irenaeus writes a book called “Against Heresies” and he outlined the different views of Christianity that he considered to be heresy

-The diversity of Christianity is linked with all of the different Gospels

-Marcion was a man who gave the church a lot of money and they welcomed him but he felt as if the original Gospels should give way to the works of Paul the apostle
How did the New Testament canon develop?