Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Eusebius and NT Canon

Recent sermons on chapter one of the 1689 confession (see here and here) have gotten me thinking about canon issues.

One of the most intriguing and important early lists of the New Testament books and early Christian writings is that found in Eusebius’ Ecclesiastical History (Book III, chapter xxv).  Eusebius (c. 260-340) was born in Palestine.  He became bishop of Caesarea in 314 and attended the Council of Nicea in 325.  His Ecclesiastical History in ten books was published in 324-325.

Here is his list:

“recognized” books
“disputed” books
spurious books
“the holy tetrad of the Gospels”
Acts of Paul
Acts of the Apostles
The Shepherd [of Hermes]
Epistles of Paul
2 Peter
The Apocalypse of Peter
1 John
2 John
Epistle of Barnabas
1 Peter
3 John
The Teachings of the Apostles [Didache]
Revelation (though disputed by some)

The Gospel of the Hebrews

In addition he mentions books “put forward by heretics in the name of the apostles” but rejected by the orthodox, including Gospels of Peter, Thomas, Matthias, and others and Acts of Andrew, John, and others.


1.  Early Christians were making distinctions among the early Christian writings.

2.  The 27 book NT canon was generally recognized, though Revelation, James, Jude, 2 Peter, and 2-3 John were disputed in some circles.

3.  We also see the outline of what will be the standard ordering of the NT books:  Gospels, Acts, Paul’s epistles, general epistles, Revelation.

4.  A distinction was made between the NT books and others.

5.  A distinction was also made between works that might be edifying but which were not genuine [the nothoi] and heretical books.

6.  The four Gospels were a distinct collection.

7.  The letters of Paul were a distinct collection. They likely included Hebrews as Pauline.


No comments: