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: Roman
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.
I’ve mentioned the Roman pater familias briefly in another post. This is a technical legal term of art that does not simply mean “father;” for example, to be a pater familias it was unnecessary to be a father in fact. Under Roman law a pater familias was endowed with patria potestas. The patria potestas is the legal power of the father — it was a bundle of rights generally concerning property and the lives of those who were in potestate (under the power of the pater).
In a family consisting of a 80 year old man, his 60 year old son, his 40 year old grandson, his 20 year old great-grandson, and a newborn great-great-grandson, the only pater familias is the 80 year old; he owns all property and has power of life or death over all those under his power.
The other day I was having a conversation and Europe’s Black Death came up. I don’t know much about the Black Death or Medieval history generally, but the opinion I heard went something like this: “Ancient Rome was able to effect order, health, and quarantine to a degree that wasn’t possible after its fall. It was the collapse of the Empire that in part allowed epidemics like the Black Plague to wreak havoc in the disorganized Europe that followed.”
This view of Roman disease-control is too idealized.
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.