eusebius on the canon of the Bible

Eusebius (260-340AD) is one of the oldest sources listing out books considered as accepted as the New Testament. There is a mysterious fragment (Muratorian fragment), which also lists out books (notably not listing James, 1 Peter, and 2 Peter). But other than Origen, Eusebius gives the clearest picture of accepted texts in the early Christianity. This allows scholars to gauge the relative importance of various documents in Early Christianity to which we now have access.

Eusebius accepted:

Writings of Paul
1 John
1 Peter

Eusebius lists as disputed:

2 Peter
2 John
3 John

Eusebius lists as rejected but not discarded:

Acts of Paul (a very gnostic document against sex)
Shepard of Hermas
Apocalypse of Peter
Epistle of Barnabas (an anti-Jewish document that reinterprets the Old Testament)
Teachings of the Apostles (moralistic teachings, which also counter antinomianism)
Revelation (there seems to be an equal rate of acceptance and rejection of this)

Eusebius lists as heretical:

Gospel of Peter
Gospel of Thomas
Gospel of Matthias
Acts of Andrew
Acts of John

Here is the full text:

1. Since we are dealing with this subject it is proper to sum up the writings of the New Testament which have been already mentioned. First then must be put the holy quaternion of the Gospels; following them the Acts of the Apostles.

2. After this must be reckoned the epistles of Paul; next in order the extant former epistle of John, and likewise the epistle of Peter, must be maintained. After them is to be placed, if it really seem proper, the Apocalypse of John, concerning which we shall give the different opinions at the proper time. These then belong among the accepted writings.

3. Among the disputed writings, which are nevertheless recognized by many, are extant the so-called epistle of James and that of Jude, also the second epistle of Peter, and those that are called the second and third of John, whether they belong to the evangelist or to another person of the same name.

4. Among the rejected writings must be reckoned also the Acts of Paul, and the so-called Shepherd, and the Apocalypse of Peter, and in addition to these the extant epistle of Barnabas, and the so-called Teachings of the Apostles; and besides, as I said, the Apocalypse of John, if it seem proper, which some, as I said, reject, but which others class with the accepted books.

5. And among these some have placed also the Gospel according to the Hebrews, with which those of the Hebrews that have accepted Christ are especially delighted. And all these may be reckoned among the disputed books.

6. But we have nevertheless felt compelled to give a catalogue of these also, distinguishing those works which according to ecclesiastical tradition are true and genuine and commonly accepted, from those others which, although not canonical but disputed, are yet at the same time known to most ecclesiastical writers—we have felt compelled to give this catalogue in order that we might be able to know both these works and those that are cited by the heretics under the name of the apostles, including, for instance, such books as the Gospels of Peter, of Thomas, of Matthias, or of any others besides them, and the Acts of Andrew and John and the other apostles, which no one belonging to the succession of ecclesiastical writers has deemed worthy of mention in his writings.

About christopher fisher

The blog is meant for educational/entertainment purposes. All material can be used and reproduced in any length for any purpose as long as I am cited as the source.
This entry was posted in Bible, Church Fathers, Church History, History, Textual Criticism. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to eusebius on the canon of the Bible

  1. Pingback: didache – the teachings of the twelve | reality is not optional

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