Muratorian fragment

Last updated
last page of the Canon Muratori, as published by Tregelles 1868 Canon Muratori.png
last page of the Canon Muratori, as published by Tregelles 1868

The Muratorian fragment, also known as the Muratorian Canon [1] (18:02) or Canon Muratori, is a copy of perhaps the oldest known list of most of the books of the New Testament. The fragment, consisting of 85 lines, is a 7th-century Latin manuscript bound in a 7th or 8th century codex from the library of Columbanus's monastery at Bobbio Abbey; it contains features suggesting it is a translation from a Greek original written about 170 or as late as the 4th century. Both the degraded condition of the manuscript and the poor Latin in which it was written have made it difficult to translate. The beginning of the fragment is missing, and it ends abruptly. The fragment consists of all that remains of a section of a list of all the works that were accepted as canonical by the churches known to its original compiler. It was discovered in the Ambrosian Library in Milan by Father Ludovico Antonio Muratori (1672–1750), the most famous Italian historian of his generation, and published in 1740. [2]

New Testament Second division of the Christian biblical canon

The New Testament is the second part of the Christian biblical canon, the first being the Old Testament. The New Testament discusses the teachings and person of Jesus, as well as events in first-century Christianity. Christians regard both the Old and New Testaments together as sacred scripture.

Latin Indo-European language of the Italic family

Latin is a classical language belonging to the Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. The Latin alphabet is derived from the Etruscan and Greek alphabets and ultimately from the Phoenician alphabet.

Codex book with handwritten content

A codex, plural codices, is a book constructed of a number of sheets of paper, vellum, papyrus, or similar materials. The term is now usually only used of manuscript books, with hand-written contents, but describes the format that is now near-universal for printed books in the Western world. The book is usually bound by stacking the pages and fixing one edge to a spine, which may just be thicker paper, or with stiff boards, called a hardback, or in elaborate historical examples a treasure binding.

Contents

The definitive formation of the New Testament canon did not occur until 367, when bishop Athanasius of Alexandria in his annual Easter letter composed the list that is still recognised today as the canon of 27 books. However, it would take several more centuries of debates until agreement on Athanasius' canon had been reached within all of Christendom. [1] (7:30)

Athanasius of Alexandria

Athanasius of Alexandria, also called Athanasius the Great, Athanasius the Confessor or, primarily in the Coptic Orthodox Church, Athanasius the Apostolic, was the 20th bishop of Alexandria. His intermittent episcopacy spanned 45 years, of which over 17 encompassed five exiles, when he was replaced on the order of four different Roman emperors. Athanasius was a Christian theologian, a Church Father, the chief defender of Trinitarianism against Arianism, and a noted Egyptian leader of the fourth century.

Characteristics

Muratorian fragment is preserved in Milan, Bibliotheca Ambrosiana, Cod. J 101 sup. Muratorian Fragment.jpg
Muratorian fragment is preserved in Milan, Bibliotheca Ambrosiana, Cod. J 101 sup.

The text of the list itself is traditionally dated to about 170 because its author refers to Pius I, bishop of Rome (140—155), as recent:

Pope Pius I

Pope Pius I is said to have been the Bishop of Rome from c. 140 to his death c. 154, according to the Annuario Pontificio. His dates are listed as 142 or 146 to 157 or 161, respectively.

But Hermas wrote The Shepherd "most recently in our time", 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.

<i>The Shepherd of Hermas</i> Christian literary work of the 1st or 2nd century

The Shepherd of Hermas is a Christian literary work of the late first half of the second century, considered a valuable book by many Christians, and considered canonical scripture by some of the early Church fathers such as Irenaeus. The Shepherd was very popular amongst Christians in the 2nd and 3rd centuries. It is part of the Codex Sinaiticus, and it is listed between the Acts of the Apostles and the Acts of Paul in the stichometrical list of the Codex Claromontanus.

The document contains a list of the books of the New Testament, a similar list concerning the Old Testament having apparently preceded it. It is in barbarous Latin which has probably been translated from original Greek—the language prevailing in Christian Rome until c. 200. [3]

A few scholars [4] have also dated it as late as the 4th century, but their arguments have not won widespread acceptance in the scholarly community. For more detail, see the article in the Anchor Bible Dictionary . Bruce Metzger has advocated the traditional dating, [5] as has Charles E. Hill. [6]

The unidentified author accepts four Gospels, the last two of which are Luke and John, but the names of the first two at the beginning of the list are missing. Scholars find it highly likely that the missing two gospels are Matthew and Mark, although this remains uncertain. [1] (19:44) Also accepted by the author are the "Acts of all Apostles" and 13 of the Pauline Epistles (the Epistle to the Hebrews is not mentioned in the fragment). The author considers spurious the letters claiming to have Paul as author that are ostensibly addressed to the Laodiceans and to the Alexandrians. Of these he says they are "forged in Paul's name to [further] the heresy of Marcion."

Of the General epistles, the author accepts the Epistle of Jude and says that two epistles "bearing the name of John are counted in the catholic church"; 1 and 2 Peter and James are not mentioned in the fragment. It is clear that the author assumed that the author of the Gospel of John was the same as the author of the First Epistle of John, for in the middle of discussing the Gospel of John he says "what marvel then is it that John brings forward these several things so constantly in his epistles also, saying in his own person, "What we have seen with our eyes and heard with our ears, and our hands have handled that have we written," (1 John 1:1) which is a quotation from the First Epistle of John. It is not clear whether the other epistle in question is 2 John or 3 John. Another indication that the author identified the Gospel writer John with two epistles bearing John's name is that when he specifically addresses the epistles of John, he writes, "the Epistle of Jude indeed, and the two belonging to the above mentioned John." In other words, he thinks that these letters were written by the John whom he has already discussed, namely John the gospel writer. He gives no indication that he considers the John of the Apocalypse to be a different John from the author of the Gospel of John.

Indeed, by calling the author of the Apocalypse of John the "predecessor" of Paul, who, he assumes, wrote to seven churches (Rev 2–3) before Paul wrote to seven churches [lines 48–50], [7] he most likely has in mind the gospel writer, since he assumes that the writer of the Gospel of John was an eyewitness disciple who knew Jesus, and thus preceded Paul who joined the church only a few years after Jesus' death (Acts 9).

In addition to receiving the Apocalypse of John into the church canon, the author remarks that they also receive the Apocalypse of Peter, although "some of us will not allow the latter to be read in church"[line 72]. [7] However, it is not certain whether this refers to the Greek Apocalypse of Peter or the quite different Coptic Apocalypse of Peter , the latter of which, unlike the former, was Gnostic. The author also includes the Book of Wisdom, "written by the friends of Solomon in his honour" [line 70] [7] in the canon.

Comparison

BookMuratorian CanonPresent canon [8]
Gospel of Matthew Probably [9] Yes
Gospel of Mark Probably [9] Yes
Gospel of Luke YesYes
Gospel of John YesYes
Acts of the Apostles YesYes
Romans YesYes
1 Corinthians YesYes
2 Corinthians YesYes
Galatians YesYes
Ephesians YesYes
Philippians YesYes
Colossians YesYes
1 Thessalonians YesYes
2 Thessalonians YesYes
1 Timothy YesYes
2 Timothy YesYes
Titus YesYes
Philemon YesYes
Hebrews NoYes [10]
James NoYes [10]
1 Peter NoYes
2 Peter NoYes
1 John Probably [11] Yes
2 John Maybe [11] Yes
3 John Maybe [11] Yes
Jude YesYes [10]
Apocalypse of John YesYes [10]
Apocalypse of Peter Yes [12] No
Wisdom of Solomon YesVaries by denomination [13]

Related Research Articles

Apocrypha literature and art

Apocrypha are works, usually written, of unknown authorship or of doubtful origin. Biblical apocrypha are a set of texts included in the Latin Vulgate and Septuagint but not in the Hebrew Bible. While Catholic tradition considers some of these texts to be deuterocanonical, Protestants consider them apocryphal. Thus, Protestant bibles do not include the books within the Old Testament but have often included them in a separate section, usually called the Apocrypha. Other non-canonical apocryphal texts are generally called pseudepigrapha, a term that means "false attribution".

Deuterocanonical books Books that Catholics and Orthodox accept as part of the canon, but which Protestants do not accept

The deuterocanonical books are books and passages considered by the Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church and Assyrian Church of the East to be canonical books of the Old Testament but which are considered non-canonical by Protestant denominations. They are books from the Septuagint, the standard translation of the Hebrew Bible in the Hellenistic period, written during the reign of Ptolemy II and referenced extensively in the New Testament, particularly in the Pauline Epistles. With the rise of Rabbinic Judaism at the end of the Second Temple Period, the Hebrew Canon was in flux, until the Masoretic Text, compiled between the 7th and 10th centuries, became the authoritative text of the mainstream Rabbinic Judaism. The Masoretic Text excluded the seven deuterocanonical books and formed the basis for their exclusion in the Protestant Old Testament. The term distinguished these texts both from those that were termed protocanonical books, which were the books of the Hebrew canon; and from the apocryphal books, which were those books of Jewish origin that were known sometimes to have been read in church as scripture but which were considered not to be canonical.

Epistle of Jude Book of the Bible

The Epistle of Jude, often shortened to Jude, is the penultimate book of the New Testament and is traditionally attributed to Jude, the servant of Jesus and the brother of James the Just.

Epistle to the Laodiceans Purported lost letter of the apostle Paul, mentioned in Colossians 4:16

The Epistle to the Laodiceans is a lost letter of Paul the Apostle, the original existence of which is inferred from an instruction to the congregation in Colossae to send their letter to the believing community in Laodicea, and likewise obtain a copy of the letter "from Laodicea".

And when this letter has been read to you, see that it is also read before the church at Laodicea, and that you yourselves read the letter which will be forwarded from there.

Pseudepigrapha are falsely attributed works, texts whose claimed author is not the true author, or a work whose real author attributed it to a figure of the past.

Peshitta standard version of the Bible for churches in the Syriac tradition

The Peshitta is the standard version of the Bible for churches in the Syriac tradition.

Apocalypse of Peter

The Apocalypse of Peter is an early Christian text of the 2nd century and an example of apocalyptic literature with Hellenistic overtones. It is not in the Bible, but is mentioned in the Muratorian fragment, the oldest surviving list of New Testament books, which also states it was not allowed to be read in church by others. The text is extant in two incomplete versions of a lost Greek original, one Koine Greek, and an Ethiopic version, which diverge considerably. As compiled by William MacComber and others, the number of Ethiopic manuscripts of this same work continue to grow. The Ethiopic work is of colossal size and post-conciliar provenance, and therefore in any of its variations it has minimal intertextuality with the Apocalypse of Peter which is known in Greek texts.

New Testament apocrypha writing by early Christians that give accounts of Jesus and his teachings, the nature of God, or the teachings of his apostles and of their lives

The New Testament apocrypha are a number of writings by early Christians that give accounts of Jesus and his teachings, the nature of God, or the teachings of his apostles and of their lives. Some of these writings have been cited as scripture by early Christians, but since the fifth century a widespread consensus has emerged limiting the New Testament to the 27 books of the modern canon. Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox and Protestant churches generally do not view these New Testament apocrypha as part of the Bible.

Third Epistle to the Corinthians

The Third Epistle to the Corinthians is a pseudepigraphical text under the name of Paul the Apostle. It is also found in the Acts of Paul, and was framed as Paul's response to the Epistle of the Corinthians to Paul. The earliest extant copy is Papyrus Bodmer X, dating to the third century. Originally written in Greek, the letter survives in Greek, Coptic, Latin, and Armenian manuscripts.

Antilegomena written texts whose authenticity or value is disputed

Antilegomena, a direct transliteration of the Greek ἀντιλεγόμενα, refers to written texts whose authenticity or value is disputed.

First Epistle of Clement

The First Epistle of Clement is a letter addressed to the Christians in the city of Corinth. The letter was composed at some time between AD 70 and AD 140, most likely around 96. It ranks with Didache as one of the earliest—if not the earliest—of extant Christian documents outside the canonical New Testament. As the name suggests, a Second Epistle of Clement is known, but this is a later work by a different author. Neither 1 nor 2 Clement are part of the canonical New Testament, but they are part of the Apostolic Fathers collection.

Development of the Christian biblical canon

The Christian biblical canons are the books Christians regard as divinely inspired and which constitute a Christian Bible. Which books constituted the Christian biblical canons of both the Old and New Testament was generally established by the 5th century, despite some scholarly disagreements, for the ancient undivided Church.

Nothing is known for certain of an alleged pseudepigraphical Epistle to the Alexandrians — purportedly by Paul the Apostle — that is mentioned in the Muratorian fragment, one of the earliest lists of the canonical texts of the New Testament. The anonymous author of the Muratorian canon considered spurious the letters claiming to have Paul as author, and that claim to be written to the Laodiceans and this one to the Alexandrians, which are specifically said to be "forged in Paul's name to [further] the heresy of Marcion."

The Canon of Trent is the list of books officially considered canonical at the Council of Trent. A decree, the De Canonicis Scripturis, from the Council's fourth session, issued an anathema on dissenters of the books affirmed in Trent. The Council confirmed an identical list already locally approved in 1442 by the Council of Florence, which had existed in the earliest canonical lists from the synods of Carthage and Rome in the fourth century.

Syriac versions of the Bible

Syria played an important or even predominant role in the beginning of Christianity. Here is where the Gospel of Matthew, the Gospel of Luke, the Didache, Ignatiana, and the Gospel of Thomas were written. Syria was the country in which the Greek language intersected with the Syriac, which was closely related to the Aramaic dialect used by Jesus and the Apostles. That is why Syriac versions are highly esteemed by textual critics. Scholars have distinguished five or six different Syriac versions of all or part of the New Testament. It is possible that some translations have been lost. The Manuscripts originate in countries like Lebanon, Egypt (Sinai), Mesopotamia, Assyria, Armenia, Georgia, India, and even from China. This is good evidence for the great historical activity of the Syriac church.

Luthers canon

Luther's canon is the biblical canon attributed to Martin Luther, which has influenced Protestants since the 16th-century Protestant Reformation. While the Lutheran Confessions, specifically did not define a canon, it is widely regarded as the canon of the Lutheran Church. It differs from the 1546 Roman Catholic canon of the Council of Trent in that it rejects the Deuterocanonical books and questions the seven New Testament books, called "Luther's Antilegomena", four of which are still ordered last in German-language Luther Bibles to this day.

Authorship of the Petrine epistles

The authorship of the Petrine epistles is an important question in biblical criticism, parallel to that of the authorship of the Pauline epistles, since scholars have long sought to determine who were the exact authors of the New Testament letters. Most scholars today conclude that Saint Peter was not the author of the two epistles that are attributed to him and that they were written by two different authors.

Biblical canon A set of texts which a particular religious community regards as authoritative scripture

A biblical canon or canon of scripture is a set of texts which a particular religious community regards as authoritative scripture. The English word "canon" comes from the Greek κανών, meaning "rule" or "measuring stick". Christians became the first to use the term in reference to scripture, but Eugene Ulrich regards the idea as Jewish.

Development of the New Testament canon Development of the New Testament canon

The canon of the New Testament is the set of books Christians regard as divinely inspired and constituting the New Testament of the Christian Bible. For most, it is an agreed-upon list of twenty-seven books that includes the Canonical Gospels, Acts, letters of the Apostles, and Revelation. The books of the canon of the New Testament were written before 120 AD.

References

  1. 1 2 3 Bart D. Ehrman (2002). "21: Formation Of The New Testament Canon". Lost Christianities. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Retrieved 6 July 2018.
  2. Muratori, Antiquitates Italicae Medii Aevii (Milan 1740), vol. III, pp 809–80. Located within Dissertatio XLIII (cols. 807-80), entitled 'De Literarum Statu., neglectu, & cultura in Italia post Barbaros in eam invectos usque ad Anum Christii Millesimum Centesimum', at cols. 851-56.
  3. "MURATORI - Online Information article about MURATORI". encyclopedia.jrank.org. Retrieved 16 April 2018.
  4. Hahneman, Geoffrey Mark. The Muratorian Fragment and the Development of the Canon. (Oxford: Clarendon) 1992. Sundberg, Albert C., Jr. "Canon Muratori: A Fourth Century List" in Harvard Theological Review66 (1973): 1–41.
  5. Metzger, The Canon Of The New Testament: Its Origin, Significance & Development (1997, Clarendon Press, Oxford),
  6. ""The Debate Over the Muratorian Fragment and the Development of the Canon," Westminster Theological Journal 57:2 (Fall 1995)" (PDF). earlychurch.org.uk. Retrieved 16 April 2018.
  7. 1 2 3 "The Muratorian Fragment". www.bible-researcher.com. Retrieved 16 April 2018.
  8. The Assyrian Church of the East does not recognise the following books: 2 Peter, 2 and 3 John, Epistle of Jude, Apocalypse of John. Moreover, it rejects certain verses of books as non-canonical: Matthew 27:35(b), Luke 22:17-18, John 7:53, 8:1-11, Acts 8:37, 15:34 and 28:29, and 1 John 5:7.
  9. 1 2 The beginning of the Muratorian Canon is lost; the fragment that has survived, starts by naming Luke the third gospel and John the fourth. Historians therefore assume that the first two gospels would have been Matthew and Mark, although this remains uncertain.
  10. 1 2 3 4 Martin Luther doubted the canonicity of Hebrews, James, Jude and the Apocalypse of John. He showed this by the way in which he ordered them. However, he did incorporate the books in his canon, and all Lutheran communities have done so since.
  11. 1 2 3 The Muratorian fragment mentions two letters by John, but gives little clues as to which ones. Therefore, it is not known which of the three was excluded that would later be considered canonical. Bruce Metzger concluded that the Muratorian fragment cites 1 John 1:1-3 when it says: "What marvel is it then, if John so consistently mentions these particular points also in his Epistles, saying about himself, 'What we have seen with our eyes and heard with our ears and our hands have handled, these things we have written to you?'". Bruce Metzger (translator). "The Muratorian fragment". EarlyChristianWritings.com. Retrieved 9 July 2018.
  12. With some reservation however: “though some amongst us will not have this latter read in the Church.”
  13. The Wisdom of Solomon is accepted as canonical by Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Oriental Orthodox churches and also by the Assyrian Church of the East. Most Protestants consider it apocryphal.

Other sources

According to The Catholic Encyclopaedia, lines of the Muratorian fragment are preserved in "some other manuscripts", including codices of Paul's Epistles at the abbey of Monte Cassino.

Further reading