The Muratorian Canon

Background:
L. A. Muratori (d. 1750) discovered a Latin catalog of the New Testament writings, publishing the text in 1740. Judging from the content, the original manuscript (possibly in Greek) must have dated from some time in the second half of the Second Century C.E.. The text on hand is fragmentary, and in particular the beginning is missing. It is normally presumed that Matthaiah and Markus are the first two "gospel" accounts, since Lukas' version is here called the "third." The term gospel has been retained in this translation since after Markion the term euaggelion came to refer to one of the written accounts of Jesus' life. Fragmentary manuscripts discovered in 1897 have helped piece together the text, which differs slightly in the manuscripts.

Translation:
Earlier translations have been compared and revised.

...at which point, he [Markus?] was present and thus set them down.

The third book of the gospel is the one according to Lukas. After the ascension of Christ, this physician Lukas composed it in his own name, since Paulus had taken him with himself as a traveling companion. He wrote what he thought, although he himself did not see the Lord physically. Therefore, he set down the events from the birth of John as far as he could ascertain it.

The fourth gospel is that of Johannes, one of the students. When his fellow students and overseers called him aside, he said, "Fast with me for three days from today, and let us relate to one another whatever might be revealed to each of us." During that same night it was revealed to Andreas, one of the envoys, that Johannes would write down in his own name what all of them remembered. And therefore, although various different things are taught in the books of the gospel, this means nothing to the trust of believers, since everything is declared in all of them by the one principal breath -- about the birth; about the suffering; about the resurrection; about the discussions with his students; and about his two comings: first hated in humility (which has happened); second glorious with royal power (which is in the future). Therefore, why wonder that Johannes (who was constantly true to himself) brings up certain points in his letters too, saying of himself: "What we have seen with our eyes, and our ears heard, and our hands felt...we have written to you." For so he acknowledges being not only a witness who saw and heard but also a writer of all of the Lord's wonders, in order.

However, the Actions of the Envoys are included in one book. Lukas addresses them to the "most excellent Theophilus," the things that happened in his own presence. He makes this clear by the omission of Peter's suffering and of Paulus' journey when he left the city of Rome for Spain.

However, as for Paulus' letters:
They make it clear (to those who want to know) whose they are and from what place and why they were written. First of all, to the Korinthians, admonishing about divisions by school of thought; then to the Galatians, forbidding circumcision; and then to the Romans, explaining that Christ is both the measure of the writings and also their principle -- he wrote here at length.

* It is necessary to discuss these separately, since the blessed envoy himself followed the example of Johannes who preceded him, and he wrote to not more than seven assemblies, in this order:

the first to the Korinthians;
the second to the Ephesians;
the third to the Filippians;
the fourth to the Kolossaeans;
the fifth to the Galatians;
the sixth to the Thessalonikans;
the seventh to the Romans.
Although he wrote one more time to the Korinthians and to the Thessalonikans for their correction, it is recognizable that one assembly has spread across the whole globe of the earth. For in the in the Revelation, Johannes writes indeed to seven assemblies yet is speaking to all.
He wrote besides these one to Filemon, one to Titus, and two to Timotheos. These were written in personal affection, but they have been regarded as holy in honor by the universal assembly, for the ordering of discipline in the assembly.

There are extant also a letter to the Laodikeians, and another to the Alexandrians, forged in Paulus' name to further Markion's school of thought. And there are many others which cannot be received into the universal assembly, for "it is not fitting for vinegar to be mixed with honey."

Indeed, the letter of Judah, and two entitled Johannes, are accepted in the universal assembly, along with the Wisdom, written by the friends of Solomon in his honor. We receive also the Revelations of Johannes and Peter, the latter of which some refuse to have read in the assembly.

But the Shepherd was written very recently in our time by Hermas in the city of Rome, when his brother overseer Pius was seated in the chair of the Roman assembly. Therefore indeed, it should be read, but it cannot be read publicly among the people in the assembly -- either as among the Prophets (since their number is complete) or among the envoys, whose time has ended.

Now we accept nothing at all from Arsinous, or Valentinus and Miltiades, who also wrote a new book of songs for Markion, together with Basilides of Asia Minor, the founder of the Katafrygians.

Notes:
The second century author was speculating about certain points, relating various legends (like Peter's death). By this time, the stories about the authorship of Lukas and Johannes were widespread. Textually, at some points there appears to have been some addition made by later editors. The letter fails to mention either of the two letters of Peter, the letter of Jacob, and the anonymous treatise that we call Hebrews. One of the letters of Johannes is also missing. Still, the canon attests to all of Paulus' personal letters. Mentioned additionally is the OT deuterocanonical book, Wisdom of Solomon, which was known not to have been composed by Solomon. Furthermore, the Revelation of Peter was accepted by the author. Perhaps to capitalize on its acceptance, a different "Revelation of Peter" was written by gnostics. Although he refers to his opinions as "universal," this list is an attempt to exclude writings that were circulating locally and which contradicted the author's views.

The author of the list was generally anti-gnostic. Following three of the men mentioned in the note--Basilides, Markion, and Valentinus--many Christians in the Second Century were combining Greek and Hebrew thought, introducing their own writings to explain and make valid their positions. As time passed, the schools of thought would solidify around those writings which best supported their cases. Those writings became "orthodox." By the fourth century, the list settled down to approximately the place where it is today. Finally, after the acceptance of the Catholic Church by the Roman state, most of the differing schools of thought were ignored, one way or another.

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