Friday, August 30, 2019

The Vision (8.30.19): His heart was not perfect with the LORD his God

Image: Swan Lake, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming, August 2018

Note: Devotion taken from last Sunday's sermon on 1 Kings 11.

For it came to pass, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned away his heart after other gods: and his heart was not perfect with the LORD his God, as was the heart of David his father (1 Kings 11:4).

This might called be the theme verse of 1 Kings 11. It begins, “For it came to pass, when Solomon was old….” Solomon did not finish well. Young Christians sometimes might think, I can’t wait till I’m older, because then I won’t have to deal with all the temptations I face as a young person. But Solomon’s story tells us that sometimes the greatest dangers come when we are older. We can become lax in our watchfulness, our zeal for Christ can cool, our spiritual intensity diminish. I sometimes say that I am hesitant to recommend the teaching or writing of any living Christian teacher, lest he later prove a disappointment. Sometimes it is better to read and admire only dead people, because then you at least know the outcomes of their lives.

The historian repeats that Solomon’s wives “turned away his heart after other gods” (cf. v. 3). One might ask about Solomon’s agency here. He could not, in fact, use “the women made me do it” defense. They turned his heart, but his heart was prone to turning. The point is that he placed himself in a spiritually vulnerable situation which began with violation of Scripture by taking these pagan wives (v. 2).

We get the spiritual diagnosis of Solomon in v. 4b: “and his heart was not perfect with the LORD his God.” Even as a saved man, Solomon had remaining corruption. Our ear might also perk up at the comparison to David. We know David’s faults, and they were great. But so was his repentance, especially as seen in Psalm 51. Thus, he was “a man after God’s own heart.” We have no Psalm 51, however, in Solomon’s writings.

This text is here for our “learning” (Rom 15:4). We are reminded that we are prone to sin just as Solomon was. Solomon broke both the first and second tables of the law (idolatry and adultery). We too sin against both God and against man. We have our own besetting sins, things that will turn our hearts away from the Lord. Like the church at Ephesus we are prone to leave our first love (Rev 2:4). What are we cleaving to in love, rather than cleaving to Christ?

There are warnings here. We are to finish well. It is not enough merely to make a good start. The man who starts out fast from the blocks and leads the pack may stumble coming down the final stretch and lose it all.

No, our hearts are not perfect with the Lord our God, but Christ’s is. He is our hope.

Pastor Jeff Riddle

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Dale Ralph Davis in defense of the "predictive element" in OT prophecy

OT scholars steeped in the modern historical-critical method are fond of saying of the prophets that they should be understood as “forthtellers," rather than “fore-tellers.” Though it is true that prophets bring “forth” God’s Word, it also appears that such scholars desire to downplay the ability of the prophet to predict or describe future events. So, when Isaiah mentions the future Persian ruler Cyrus in Isaiah 45:1, the modern scholar is more likely to suggest this as an ex eventu device reflecting compositional authorship of Isaiah than to say that Isaiah “fore-told” the rise of Cyrus. To suggest that Isaiah actually prophesied the suffering of Christ in Isaiah 53 would, of course, be rejected out of hand.

I mention all this is to say that I was struck by a footnote I read last week in Dale Ralph Davis’s 1 Kings: The Wisdom and the Folly (Christian Focus, 2002), while preparing to preach on 1 Kings 11. In his discussion of the prophet Ahijah’s encounter with Jeroboam and his pronouncement of the Lord’s declaration that he would take ten tribes from the house of David and give them to Jeroboam, leaving only one tribe to David’s house (1 Kings 11:29-32).

Davis writes (p. 119, f.n. 13):

One often hears the predictive element of biblical prophecy played down. Introductory lectures on the prophets often stress that the biblical prophets were primarily forthtellers rather than foretellers, perhaps due to a paranoia of encouraging eschatological kooks. But the kooks will always be with us, so why justify distorting the character of prophecy by our panic? Biblical prophecy is primarily not tangentially predictive. Anyone who doesn’t think so should spend an afternoon with Isaiah 40-48.

Davis is one of my favorite modern commentators on the OT historical narrative. His commentaries on Joshua-2 Kings from Christian Focus are great resources for preaching.

I appreciate Davis’s comments on the modern playing down of the “predictive element” of the prophets. I’m not sure the motivation is to avoid encouraging “eschatological kooks” but, more generally, to avoid supernatural interpretations for naturalistic one.


Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Eusebius, EH.3.36: Ignatius of Antioch, Letters and Martyrdom

Image: Russian icon, tempera on board, c. 17th century, depicting the martyrdom of Ignatius of Antioch

A new episode is posted to the series on Eusebius of Caesarea’s The Ecclesiastical History: book 3, chapter 36. Listen here.

Notes and Commentary:

This chapter makes reference to some of the so-called Apostolic Fathers, the first generation of church leaders after the time of the apostles.

He first mentions Polycarp of Smyrna, appointed “by the eyewitnesses and ministers of the Lord.”

Next, he mentions Papias of Hierapolis.

And finally, he notes Ignatius of Antioch, the second after Peter to serve as bishop of Antioch.

He recalls the account of Ignatius’s martyrdom in Rome and the seven letters he wrote from Smyrna and Troas, as he made his pilgrimage.

Eusebius notes Ignatius’s zeal for martyrdom and his refutation of heresy, like Docetism (the rejection of the true humanity of Jesus).

Irenaeus also describes Ignatius’s martyrdom and Polycarp calls attention to it in his epistle to the Philippians.

Finally, he notes that Heros succeeded Ignatius as bishop of Antioch.

This chapter thus focuses on post-apostolic leadership from men like Polycarp, Papias, and Ingatius, and of the glory of an early martyr, Ignatius of Antioch.


Tuesday, August 27, 2019

How many tribes were left to the house of David (1 Kings 11:13, 29-32)?

Image: Matthew Poole (1624-1679)

I was preaching Sunday on 1 Kings 11 and was puzzled, as have others, by the Lord’s pronouncement upon Solomon’s sin: “Howbeit I will not rend away all the kingdom, but will give one tribe to thy son for David my servant’s sake, and for Jerusalem’s sake which I have chosen" (v. 13).

This is repeated in the prophet Ahijah’s tearing of Jeroboam’s garment and telling him to take ten pieces (vv. 29-31), while adding, “(But he shall have one tribe for my servant David’s sake, and for Jerusalem’s sake, the city which I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel:) (v. 32).

There are two problems here:

One is simple math. If there are 12 tribes and Jeroboam takes 10 and 1 is left to the house of David that only makes 11 tribes. Where is the other tribe?

Another is the fact that two tribes seem to have composed the Southern Kingdom of Judah: Judah and Benjamin (cf., e.g., 2 Chron 11:12). Why then does it say that only one tribe is given to David’s house?

My first thought was that the tribe that was “left out” of the Ahijah’s count was the priestly tribe of Levi, scattered among the other tribes. This still, however, would not explain why just one tribe is designated to the Southern Kingdom, if it was, in fact, comprised of two tribes (Judah and Benjamin).

The ancient Jews and Christians who received these texts as infallible Scripture certainly did not see any contradiction here.

As is usually helpful in the face of such questions, I turned to Matthew Poole’s commentary where he offered the following possible solutions:


One: Benjamin is “swallowed up” in Judah and the one tribe refers to both Judah and Benjamin combined as one; or

Two: The one tribe left to David’s house refers to Benjamin, in addition to Judah, which would naturally have stood with the house of David; or

Three: The one tribe refers only to Judah, because Benjamin would not always prove faithful; or

Four: As Henry puts it: “Or if God promised to give one, and gave him two, I suppose that was no great injury to him.”


Saturday, August 24, 2019

Eusebius, EH.3.32-35: Martyrdom of Simeon of Jerusalem & Pliny the Younger's Epistle

Image: Bust of the Roman Emperor Trajan (AD 53-117), Vatican Museum, Rome

A new episode is posted to the series on Eusebius of Caesarea’s The Ecclesiastical History: book 3, chapters 32-35. Listen here.

Notes and Commentary:

With chapter 32 Eusebius resumes the narrative of early persecution and martyrdom of Christians, now under the emperor Trajan.

Citing again Hegessipus he cites the martyrdom of Simeon of Cleopas, the second bishop of Jerusalem, after James, and a relative of Jesus.

Simeon is said to have been accused by Jewish Christian heretics, who were than also put to death. After being tortured Simeon is said to have died by crucifixion at the ripe old age of 120. Eusebius speculates that given his advanced age, Simeon was likely “one of the eyewitnesses and actual hearers of the Lord.”

Reference is also made to the earlier cited influence of the grandsons of Judas, the brother of Jesus, in the early church.

Eusebius says that during the time of the apostles, the church remained a “pure and uncorrupted virgin.” Only after the death of the apostles did heresy arise. He seems to be referring to the rise of Gnosticism when he cites 1 Timothy 6:10’s reference to “knowledge falsely so-called.”

In chapter 33, Eusebius makes reference to the famed letter of Pliny the Younger (Plinius Secundus) to the emperor Trajan about his dealings with Christians. Pliny reported that Christians sang hymns to Christ as to God and that they lived morally exemplary lives. Eusebius says that Pliny’s communication led to a softening of anti-Christian persecution at that time. He also cites Tertullian’s reference to Pliny.

Chapter 34 briefly notes that Clement was succeeded by Evarestos in Rome.

Chapter 35 says that after the martyrdom of Simeon, a Jewish Christian named Justus became bishop of Jerusalem. He says there were thousands of Jewish Christians at this time.

These final chapter show the ongoing importance of key Christian cities like Rome and Jerusalem and the succession of their bishops.


Friday, August 23, 2019

The Vision (8.23.19): He will not forget your work

Note: Devotion taken from 7.28.19 sermon from 1689 Confession 16:6.

Hebrews 6:10: For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labor of love, which ye have shewed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister.

London Baptist Confession 16:6: Yet notwithstanding the persons of believers being accepted through Christ, their good works also are accepted in him; not as though they were in this life wholly unblamable and unreprovable in God’s sight, but that he, looking upon them in his Son, is pleased to accept and reward that which is sincere, although accompanied with many weaknesses and imperfections.

The picture that comes to mind here is of a parent who has very young children, and the children take a crayon, and they scribble some works of “art”, and they come and present it, with real sincerity to the parents. And it’s just a scribble. It is filled with weaknesses and imperfections. It is not “gallery ready.” But it is deeply pleasing to the parents, who put it on the refrigerator, or they might even frame it and put on their walls. “This is what my beloved child did for me!”

So, our good works, though they are but filthy rags in God’s sight (Isaiah 64:6), are accepted by God in Christ.

The key prooftext for this paragraph is Hebrews 6:10, in which the inspired author says that God will not forget your work and labor of love in his name, your ministry to the saints.

It may seem like no one else remembers, no one else notices, no one else acknowledges, but God does. And who are we really serving anyhow?

The first time I ever preached from this verse was when we had returned from two years of missionary service in Hungary in a missionary debriefing conference with our fellow returned missionaries.

A large group of young people in their twenties had gone out to places around the world two years before. Some came back exhilarated, others exhausted and disappointed. Some openly wondered whether they had been able to accomplish anything. Some came back to families and friends who didn’t understand why they had even gone in the first place. Two did not come back. They had died while on the field. One was killed in an act of terrorism in China, and one had died of natural causes in rural Africa. Several had come back with life altering diseases, including some who came back from Kazakhstan with hepatitis.

And all for what? We must remember that God is not unrighteous. He will not forget our work and labor of love showed toward his name when we have ministered to the saints and continue to minister. He accepts our good works in Christ, despite their many weaknesses and imperfections.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

WM 130: Review: Peter J. Williams, Can We Trust the Gospels?

I have posted Word Magazine 130: Review: Can We Trust the Gospels? Listen here.

In this episode I offer a book report/review of Peter J. Williams, Can We Trust the Gospels? (Crossway, 2018).


Friday, August 16, 2019

The Vision (8.16.19): And all the earth sought to Solomon

Image: Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, fresco in the series "The History of the True Cross," by Piero Della Francesca (c. 1415-1492), in the Basilica of San Franceso, Arezzo, Italy.

Note: Devotion taken from last Sunday's sermon on 1 Kings 10.

And all the earth sought to Solomon, to hear his wisdom, which God had put in his heart (1 Kings 10:24).

After Solomon completed and dedicated the temple (1 Kings 5—9), the historian tells us that “all the earth sought to Solomon to hear his wisdom” (10:24). This included the Queen of Sheba who “heard of the fame of Solomon concerning the name of the LORD” and “came to prove him with hard questions” (10:1).

1 Kings 10 anticipates the Great Commission (Matt 28:19-20). It is part of a theme and a trajectory in Scripture arcing toward its ultimate fulfillment in Christ.

One might say this arc begins in Genesis 12 with the covenant promise made to Abraham: “and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed” (v. 3).

It continues in Rahab the harlot of Jericho (Joshua 6) and in Ruth the Moabitess, who said to her mother-in-law Naomi: “thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God” (Ruth 1:16).

It is there in the account of Elijah’s visit to the widow of Sidon (1 Kings 17) and in Elisha’s ministry to Naaman the Syrian (2 Kings 5).

It is there in the book of Jonah, when Jonah is sent to prophesy to the pagan city of Ninevah, upon whom the Lord had compassion (Jonah 4:11).

It is there when Isaiah prophesies of the Lord’s house being established on a mountain “and all nations shall flow unto it” (Isa 2:2).

It is there in Solomon’s Psalm 72 when he says, “all nations shall serve him” (v. 11).

It finds its culmination in Christ, who offered living water to the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4) and who said, “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me” (John 12:32). By “all men” he meant “all kinds of men” or “men from all nations.”
Christ himself even made reference to the queen of Sheba in Matthew 12:42: “The queen of the south shall rise up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: for she came from the uttermost parts of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and, behold, a greater than Solomon is here.”
1 Kings 10 anticipates the fact all nations will be drawn to the wisdom of Christ.
The amazing thing, indeed, is not merely that the queen of Sheba was drawn to the wisdom of Solomon but that we have been drawn by God’s grace to the wisdom of Christ!
Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Eusebius, EH.3.31: The Burial Sites of the Apostle John, Philip, and Philip's Daughters

Image: The traditional Martyrium (burial site) of Philip in ancient Hierapolis (modern day Turkey). Confusion goes back to Polycrates of Ephesus between Philip the Apostle and Philip the Evangelist.

Here is another episode in the series on Eusebius of Caesarea’s The Ecclesiastical History: book 3, chapter 31. Listen here.

Notes and Commentary:

This chapter discusses traditions related to the deaths of several apostolic figures.

After reference is made to the deaths of Paul and Peter having been previously discussed, Eusebius discusses traditions related to the apostle John and to Philip and his daughters.

He cites a letter of Polycrates of Ephesus to Victor of Rome noting the “great luminaries’ who “sleep in Asia.”

John is described as a “priest” (reference unknown according to Lake) and as a “martyr and teacher” who now “sleeps at Ephesus.”

Reference is made in this source to Philip as “one of the twelve apostles.” Lake comments: “Possibly Polycrates has confused Philip the Apostle and Philip the Deacon, and Eusebius did not notice it.” Polycrates also says that Philip “sleeps at Hierapolis with two daughters who grew old as virgins” and possibly a third daughter (text uncertain) “rests in Ephesus.”

He also cites the dialogue of Gaius with Proclus, who refers to Philip and his four daughters who were prophetesses and whose graves were in Hierapolis.

He says this is the same Philip the Evangelist and his four daughters at Caesarea mentioned in Acts 21:8-9.

There seems to be confusion here in general about Philip the apostle and Philip the Evangelist.

These references to the burial sites of these luminaries of the apostolic era may also reflect the early tradition of pilgrimages to these sites and remembrance of the martyrs, as reflected in works like the Martyrdom of Polycarp.


"It's epistemology, stupid!"

Yesterday, I did a post about my review article of Garnet Howard Milne’s book Has the Bible Been Kept Pure? that appears in the latest Puritan Reformed Journal. I also recorded an audio version of the review. As I did the audio version, I noticed that the editors had made a few changes to the text. I understand. This happens. I found one change, however, to be puzzling.

Near the end of the article I try to make a point about how focus on epistemology is key for overturning modern text criticism in the hearts of conservative, Reformed evangelicals and drew an historical analogy from politics.

In my original review it read as follows (note the lines in bold):

Still, it is Milne’s historical and doctrinal arguments that hold pride of place in this work, and they are formidable. The work’s greatest strength is its stress on the epistemological weaknesses of the modern text critical method. When Bill Clinton defeated the incumbent George H. W. Bush in the 1992 United States presidential election, he said his key to victory was that he kept reminding his campaign staff, “It’s the economy, stupid!” If the traditional text is once again to prevail among the Reformed and evangelical then it might well come about because its advocates keep repeating, “It’s epistemology, stupid!”

The anecdotal quip from the Clinton campaign is familiar to anyone who remembers the 1992 election. According to a Wikipedia entry, “It’s the economy, stupid” was actually a variation on “The economy, stupid” as coined by legendary Clinton political strategist James Carville.

Here, however, is how the passage above was edited to appear in the published article (again note the lines in bold):

Still, it is Milne’s historical and doctrinal arguments that hold pride of place in this work, and they are formidable. The work’s greatest strength is its stress on the epistemological weaknesses of the modern text critical method. When Bill Clinton defeated the incumbent George H. W. Bush in the 1992 United States presidential election, he said his key to victory was that he kept reminding his campaign staff it was all about the economy. If the traditional text is once again to prevail among the Reformed and evangelical then it might well come about because its advocates keep affirming that it is all about epistemology.

So, the offending word “stupid” was removed. It is indeed a coarse word. When my children were young we taught them not to say this word or to call anyone by that name. More than once, I had a child report with horror on some interaction overheard in public or on media, “He said the ‘S’ word.” And by that he meant he had heard someone use the word “stupid.” Oh the glories of giving your children shelter in homeschooling!

Is, however, the word so coarse that it should have been excised from the article? Would such a phrase offend the sensitive ear of the Puritan Reformed Journal reader? Does the paraphrase weaken the impact of the historical reference? Does “It’s epistemology, stupid!” make a bigger splash than “it is all about epistemology”?

Well, the article stands as it is. Maybe one day some Reformed digital scholar will write an article attempting to reconstruct the original text of the review, while another will argue it should stand as received. Smiles.


Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Review Article posted: Garnet Howard Milne's "Has the Bible Been Kept Pure?"

My extended review article on Garnet Howard Milne’s Has the Bible Been Kept Pure? The Westminster Confession of Faith and the Providential Preservation of Scripture (2017) appears in the most recent issue of Puritan Reformed Journal, Vol. 11, No. 2 (July 2019): 225-231.

You can read a pdf of the article at my page.

You can also listen to an audio reading of the review on

A “rough draft” version of the review was also presented back in WM 93.

Blessings, JTR

Monday, August 12, 2019

Eusebius, EH.3.28-30: Against Heresies: Cerinthus & the Nicolaitans

Image: Ruins of the Baths of Carcalla, Rome, Italy. These baths were completed c. AD 217 but may be like the one where John supposedly fled from Cerinthus.

A new episode is posted to the series on Eusebius of Caesarea’s The Ecclesiastical History: book 3, chapters 28-30. Listen here.

Notes and Commentary:

In these chapters Eusebius continues to trace heresies of the early post-apostolic era:

In chapter 28, he discusses the Gnostic teacher Cerinthus, citing several early Christian sources on Cerinthus, including:

Gaius who said that Cerinthus wrote a book in the name of “a great apostle” in which he says there will be a marriage feast that will last “a thousand years.” Lake: “It would appear that Gaius thought that Cerinthus was the writer of the Apocalypse.” If so, this would show controversy over the canonicity of Revelation and chiliastic or millenarian views.

Dionysius of Alexandria describes him as founder of the Cerinthian heresy and also disparagingly mentions his teaching that “the kingdom of Christ would be on earth.”
Irenaeus is cited as conveying a tradition from Polycarp of Smyrna of how the apostle John fled from a bath when Cerinthus entered, fearing it would fall in, because “the enemy of truth” had entered.

In chapter 29, Eusebius discusses the Nicolaitan heresy (cf. Rev. 2:6, 15). He notes that these traced themselves to the Nicolas among the seven servants in Jerusalem (Acts 6:5).

For a source he cites Clement of Alexandria, who conveys a tradition that Nicolas had a beautiful wife he offered to others out of jealousy, suggesting he was a libertine. Eusebius, however, suggests the opposite, that he gave up his wife because he was an ascetic, as was Matthias.

In chapter 30, Eusebius continues to draw upon Clement of Alexandria who countered those who rejected marriage by looking to the examples of the married apostles and apostolic associates, who were husbands and fathers, mentioning Peter, Philip, and Paul. He also conveys a tradition that Peter exhorted his wife when she was being led to her death by saying, “Remember the Lord.”

Conclusion: Again, we see that the formation of orthodox belief and practice is fleshed out through distinction from heresies.


Friday, August 09, 2019

The Vision (8.9.19): I have heard thy prayer

Image: Overlooking the Badlands, South Dakota, August 2018.

Note: Devotion taken from last Sunday's sermon on 1 Kings 9.

“And the Lord said unto him, I have heard thy prayer and thy supplications, that thou hast made before me” (1 Kings 9:3a).

After he had built the temple, the Lord appeared a second time to Solomon and declared to him that he had heard his prayers.

All throughout Scripture the Lord is presented as a hearer of the prayers of his people.
Think of the books of Judges, describing the days of Othniel: “And when the children of Israel cried unto the LORD, the LORD raised up a deliverer to the children of Israel, who delivered them, even Othniel the son of Kenaz, Caleb’s younger brother” (Judges 3:10).

Think of Hannah, crying out for a child in 1 Samuel 1:10: “And she was in bitterness of soul, and prayed unto the LORD, and wept sore.” And the LORD heard and gave her a son, Samuel, which means, “God hears.”

Think of the early church gathered at the home of Mary the mother of John Mark in Acts 12, praying for the deliverance of Peter from prison. God answered that prayer, Peter was miraculously released, and came to the door of Mary’s house, met by the bewildered Rhoda (see Acts 12:13-17).

Think of the Psalms, like:

Psalm 31:22: “For I said in my haste, I am cut off from before thine eyes: nevertheless thou heardest the voice of my supplications when I cried unto thee.”

Psalm 34:17: “The righteous cry, and the LORD heareth, and delivereth them out of all their troubles.”
Do you think of your prayers as bouncing off a glass ceiling or a brick wall, or do you think of them as the cries of an infant, heard and responded to by a loving Heavenly Father?
The Lord heard Solomon’s prayer. And he will hear our prayers.
Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Thursday, August 08, 2019

Eusebius, EH.3.26-27: Against Heresies: Menander the Samaritan & the Ebionites

Image: Closeup image of Simon Magus relief from the Basilica of Saint-Sernin, Toulouse, France.

A new episode is posted in our series on Eusebius of Caesarea’s The Ecclesiastical History: book 3, chapter 26-27. Listen here.

Notes and Commentary:

In these two chapters Eusebius traces two early heresies:

First, in chapter 26 he describes the heresy of the sorcerer Menander the Samaritan. Menander followed after Simon Magus and appeared in Antioch where he “deceived many by magical arts.” Menander’s teaching reflects some sort of Gnosticism, with Eusebius suggesting Menander presented himself as a savior “sent from above for the salvation of men from invisible aeons.” Eusebius notes that Menander’s heresy was described by both Irenaeus and Justin. He also rejected the orthodox view of the resurrection and the Christian hope.

Second, in chapter 27, he describes the Jewish sect known as the Ebionites. Eusebius makes much of the fact that their name comes from the Hebrew word meaning “poor”, reflecting their low view of Christ. These saw Jesus as “a plain and ordinary man who had achieved righteousness by the progress of his character and had been born naturally from Mary and her husband.”

He makes a distinction between some Ebionites who deny Christ’s eternal pre-existence as the Logos and his Virgin Birth, while others deny the former but affirm the latter.

This group thus had an “adoptionistic” or “subordinationist” Christology, reflected in their denial of the eternal pre-existence of the Son of God and the Virgin Birth of Jesus. They also urged complete observance of the OT law. They also rejected the canonical Gospels in favor of the Gospel of the Hebrews and rejected the letters of Paul. They kept the Jewish sabbath but also commemorated the resurrection on Sundays.

Conclusion: These descriptions are of interest in that they demonstrate the emergence of orthodox stands against unorthodox teaching. Gnosticism is rejected. Low Christology is also rejected, while cardinal doctrines are also affirmed, like the deity of Christ, the eternal pre-existence of the Son of God, and the virginal conception. The denunciation of the Ebionites also demonstrates the importance of an orthodox canon. The Ebionites are misguided in that they reject the teaching of NT Scripture (the canonical Gospels and Pauline epistles).


Saturday, August 03, 2019

Eusebius, EH.3.25: The Canon of the NT

Image: A section from Papyrus 75 showing the ending of Luke and the beginning of John.

I've added another episode to the series on Eusebius of Caesarea’s The Ecclesiastical History: book 3, chapter 25. Listen here.

Notes and Commentary:

The chapter is one of the most important writings from early Christianity related to the recognition of the New Testament canon.

Eusebius famously outlines what could be called four categories of writings:

First, the “Recognized Books [homologoumenoi]”:

The holy tetrad of the Gospels
The epistles of Paul (presumably including Hebrews)
1 John
1 Peter
Revelation of John (though he notes misgivings by some)

Second, the “Disputed Books [antilegemenoi]”:

2 Peter
2-3 John (whether by the Evangelist John or another John)

Third, the rejected works:

The Acts of Paul
The Shepherd (of Hermas)
The Apocalypse of Peter
The Epistle of Barnabas
The Teachings of the Apostles (Didache)
He also mentions here the dispute over Revelation.
The Gospel According to the Hebrews

Fourth, heretical works:

These works, says Eusebius, are put forward by heretics under pseudonyms of the apostles. He calls them “forgeries of the heretics.”

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

These are not part of “true orthodoxy.”


By the early fourth century there is a clear consensus on the recognition of 22 of the 27 books of the NT canon as “true, genuine, and recognized.” The remaining five (James, Jude, 2 Peter, 2-3 John) are disputed but seen as clearly distinct from non-canonical rejected and heretical works.