The four canonical Gospels of the New Testament were decided upon fairly early in fledgling church’s career to be the only acceptable Gospels. One scholar places the upper limit of the final dating for the four-fold Gospel Canon at around the year 150. Frederick C. Grant, The Gospels: Their Origin and Their Growth 13 (1983) . This is only an upper limit, and the Gospels were probably finalized much earlier; but even 150 is relatively early in church history. The Gospels necessarily had to be finished around that time: unwritten texts cannot be canonized, and the contemporary agreement of Irenaeus, Tertullian, and Clement of Alexandria was that the canonicity of the four Gospels was accepted by the end of the second century. Tatian, who was writing even slightly before Irenaeus and the others also held a view of four Gospels. This hints that Justin Martyr (ca. 150) also held this view, because Tatian was his disciple. Most interestingly, however, are the clues found in the Shepherd of Hermas, which point to the four-fold Gospels as well as serving as a source for some of Irenaeus’ later ideas on the subject. The church widely regarded the Gospels as having been written by apostles or their followers rather early; and these texts were canonized quite soon after they were all written.
Tag Archives: New Testament
The following paper was presented by me at the Second Annual Student Religious Studies Conference put on by the Midwest Region of the Society of Biblical Literature at Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais, Illinois. It was written in November 2007 for a classical studies course at Tulane University taught by Dr. Lawrence Lahey titled “Ancient Christianity.” The course introduced students to the history of the Ancient Christian movement within the Roman Empire. It illustrated the historical developments through the emergence of the canon of the New Testament writings from the second through the fourth centuries.
The paper views the phenomenon of Christianity through a historical lens — specifically the resulting organization that formed around this rapidly developing movement. The paper argues that the “three-fold ministry” of bishops, priests, and deacons was a later development only springing up from an earlier and more primitive “two-fold” ministry comprised solely of priests and deacons (and before even that, an even earlier loose organization centered around charismatics). Of particular interest to some readers may be the parts of the paper relating to the origin of the papacy.
Essentially, this paper tracks the shift of Christianity from inspired religious cult and persecuted movement to the powerful bureaucracy seen in the post-classical era.
Women in Roman law were never completely independent. J.F. Gardner, Women in Roman Law and Society, p. 5 (Indiana University Press 1991). The pater familias created an unbalanced power dynamic in at least a legal sense. R.P. Saller, Patriarchy, Property and Death in the Roman Family, p. 104 (Cambridge University Press 1994). Roman society was a patriarchy that was very concerned with morality, and women were either subservient or stigmatized.
Throughout the history of Rome, citizenship was a desirable status to have. Wars were fought over this issue. Even as late as the early part of the first century it seems like it was an uncommon and privileged status in the provinces.
In 212 C.E. citizenship was extended to every free person in the entire empire.
John’s second letter is the shortest book in the entire bible. There are only ten full sentences. Here’s the first:
 Ο ΠΡΕΣΒΥΤΕΡΟΣ ἐκλεκτῇ κυρίᾳ καὶ τοῖς τέκνοις αὐτῆς, οὓς ἐγὼ ἀγαπῶ ἐν ἀληθείᾳ, καὶ οὐκ ἐγὼ μόνος ἀλλὰ καὶ πάντες οἱ ἐγνωκότες τὴν ἀλήθειαν,  διὰ τὴν ἀλήθειαν τὴν μένουσαν ἐν ἡμῖν, καὶ μεθ᾽ ἡμῶν ἔσται εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα:  ἔσται μεθ᾽ ἡμῶν χάρις ἔλεος εἰρήνη παρὰ θεοῦ πατρός, καὶ παρὰ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ τοῦ υἱοῦ τοῦ πατρός, ἐν ἀληθείᾳ καὶ ἀγάπῃ.
Let’s continue with the book of Matthew. When we left off we were in the middle of Jesus’ genealogy ending at David. Here are the next 6 verses:
Δαυεὶδ δὲ ἐγέννησεν τὸν Σολομῶνα ἐκ τῆς τοῦ Οὐρίου,  Σολομὼν δὲ ἐγέννησεν τὸν Ῥοβοάμ, Ῥοβοὰμ δὲ ἐγέννησεν τὸν Ἀβιά, Ἀβιὰ δὲ ἐγέννησεν τὸν Ἀσάφ, Ἀσὰφ δὲ ἐγέννησεν τὸν Ἰωσαφάτ,  Ἰωσαφὰτ δὲ ἐγέννησεν τὸν Ἰωράμ, Ἰωρὰμ δὲ ἐγέννησεν τὸν Ὀζείαν,  Ὀζείας δὲ ἐγέννησεν τὸν Ἰωαθάμ, Ἰωαθὰμ δὲ ἐγέννησεν τὸν Ἄχας, Ἄχας δὲ ἐγέννησεν τὸν Ἑζεκίαν,  Ἑζεκίας δὲ ἐγέννησεν τὸν Μανασσῆ, Μανασσῆς δὲ ἐγέννησεν τὸν Ἀμώς, Ἀμὼς δὲ ἐγέννησεν τὸν Ἰωσείαν,  Ἰωσείας δὲ ἐγέννησεν τὸν Ἰεχονίαν καὶ τοὺς ἀδελφοὺς αὐτοῦ ἐπὶ τῆς μετοικεσίας Βαβυλῶνος.  Μετὰ δὲ τὴν μετοικεσίαν Βαβυλῶνος Ἰεχονίας ἐγέννησεν τὸν Σαλαθιήλ
One reader was asking about me doing a piece on Tiberius Gracchus and the land reform debates. I was taking a look at Plutarch’s Life of Tiberius Gracchus and wikipediaing when I saw an interesting line that segues nicely with our current trip through the Book of Matthew. I’ll come back to the Gracchi brothers sometime once we’re done with Matthew, but until then take a look at this line attributed to Tiberius Gracchus by Plutarch and my translation.
The Book of Matthew was probably written in or around Antioch and served as the Gospel for that church community. Notably, Christians began simply as a parallel sub-sect of Judaism alongside the Sadducees, Pharisees, and Essenes. What’s really fascinating is that the Sadducees and Pharisees had pretty much as many theological differences between them as either did with Christians. Acts 23:6. Shortly later, however, Christians began to be viewed as an entirely different religion altogether. This shift probably first really started taking place in Antioch. “[I]n Antioch the disciples were first called Christians.” Acts. 11:26.
From the point of view of reading the New Testament as a piece of literature Matthew is the first book. The first line consciously references the beginning of the Hebrew Bible with the use of the word geneseos. Matthew also throws in bits of Aramaic so from a linguistic point of view you get Greek and Aramaic in one go.