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.


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