Formation of the Biblical Canon

“The Bible did not originate as a single volume; it evolved and, even today, has several different forms.”

Who decided which writings would be in the Bible? When were these decisions made? Is Jewish scripture included in the Bible? What was the original language used to record the Bible?

These questions and more are addressed in this two-session study. It can be used to facilitate rich conversation among folk who are trying to learn more about scripture. It can also be used as a companion or addendum to any other Yale Bible Study materials.

The Bible can be somewhat difficult to access. Understanding how specific writings were chosen for inclusion as well as a bit about how some writings were skipped should help. The professors point to a breadth of history and philosophy which provides context for this amazing literature which is as important and inspirational today as it was in the centuries during which is was written.

Meet Our Professors

Harry Attridge

Lillian Claus Professor of New Testament

Harry Attridge has made scholarly contributions to New Testament exegesis and to the study of Hellenistic Judaism and the history of the early Church. He has published numerous books, authored book chapters and articles in scholarly journals, and has edited 11 books, including Hebrews: A Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews, First-Century Cynicism in the Epistles of Heraclitus, The Interpretation of Biblical History in the Antiquitates Judaicae of Flavius Josephus, Nag Hammadi Codex I: The Jung Codex, and Psalms in Community. Dean Attridge has been an editorial board member of Catholic Biblical Quarterly, the Harvard Theological Review, the Journal of Biblical Literature, and the Hermeneia Commentary Series. Before coming to Yale, Dr. Attridge was Professor of New Testament Studies and Dean of the College of Arts and Letters at Notre Dame. He has served as president of the Society of Biblical Literature since 2001. He holds degrees from Boston College (A.B.), Cambridge University (B.A., M.A.), Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and Harvard University (Ph.D.).

John J. Collins

Holmes Professor of Old Testament Criticism and Interpretation

John J. Collins, a native of Ireland, was a professor of Hebrew Bible at the University of Chicago from 1991 until his arrival at YDS in 2000. He previously taught at the University of Notre Dame. He has published widely on the subjects of apocalypticism, wisdom, Hellenistic Judaism, and the Dead Sea Scrolls. He has participated in the editing of the Dead Sea Scrolls and is the general editor of the Yale Anchor Bible series. He holds degrees from University College Dublin (BA, MA, and an honorary D. Litt.) and Harvard University (PhD).


Yale Bible Study

Formation of the Biblical Canon

I. Old Testament

The Torah or Law of Moses (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy)

The Hebrew Bible took shape gradually over centuries. In Exodus 24:7 we read of “the book of the covenant” which seems to refer to Exodus chapters 20:22 to 24:18. This is arguably the first authoritative book in the Bible. It does not date from the time of Moses, but from several centuries later, perhaps in the eighth century BCE. (The laws clearly presuppose a settled rural population). The book of the covenant is quite narrow in scope. A much more extensive book of the covenant is found in Deuteronomy, which is often called “the book of the law.”

According to a story in 2 Kings, chapter 22, King Josiah of Judah was having repair work done on the temple in 621 BCE. In the course of the repairs, the High Priest claimed to have found “the book of the Law in the house of the Lord.” This was presented to the king, and he had a prophetess, Huldah, check it for authenticity. When she confirmed it, the king made a covenant before the Lord and instituted several reforms in accordance with the book. It is generally agreed that this book was some form of the book we know as Deuteronomy. One of its key provisions was that the Israelites should offer sacrifice in only one place. It is apparent that no such law was known or in force before the time of Josiah.

Not long after the time of Josiah, Judah was overrun by the Babylonians and Jerusalem was destroyed. The Law now became very important, because the people no longer had a Temple as the focal point of their religion.

During the Babylonian Exile (586-539 BCE) Deuteronomy was combined with other writings to make up the first five books of the Bible, the Torah or Pentateuch as we now know it. According to the Book of Ezra, the Law or Torah was brought back to Jerusalem by Ezra. (Ezra is dated to the seventh year of the Persian king, Artaxerxes, which could be either 458 or 398 BCE. Most scholars favor the earlier date). Ezra allegedly went to the king and asked for permission to go to Jerusalem to see whether people were observing the Law, and was given permission to do so. When he got there, he found that the people did not know the Law at all. He attempted to enforce some of its provisions concerning the festivals, and also to compel those who had married nonJewish women to divorce them. Ezra’s law seems to have included Deuteronomy and much of Leviticus, but the liturgical calendar was not yet finalized. He did not have the Day of Atonement in what came to be its proper place.

From the time of Ezra onward, the Torah or Law of Moses was acknowledged as the ancestral law of the Judeans, even if it was not always observed. So when the Greeks conquered Jerusalem, they confirmed the right of the people to live in accordance with their ancestral laws, and there is no doubt that these were the laws of Moses in the Torah. By the Hellenistic period (roughly after 300 BCE), the Pentateuch was practically complete; but we know from the Dead Sea Scrolls that scribes were still making changes down to the turn of the era.

The Prophets

The second division of the Hebrew Bible is that of the Prophets. The first great prophets (Amos, Isaiah, Hosea) were active in the eighth century BCE. The last of the prophets were active in the Persian period (late sixth and fifth centuries BCE) after the Babylonian exile. The prophets did not write books. They delivered short oracles. These were collected by their followers, and eventually edited. Much of the editing was done after the Exile. The scribes often expanded the words of the prophets. Only a fraction of the words found in the prophetic books is likely to go back to the prophets themselves.

The prophets claimed to be inspired. They typically began their oracles by saying “this is the word of the Lord.” The idea that Scripture is inspired was an extrapolation from the inspiration of the prophets.

The collection of the prophets was complete by the early Hellenistic period. We know from its references to current events that the Book of Daniel was written about 164 BCE, around the time of the Maccabean revolt. Daniel is classified as a prophet in the Christian Old Testament, but the book is placed with the Writings, the third section of the canon, in Jewish tradition. The most plausible reason for this difference is that the collection of the prophets was closed before Daniel was written. The Dead Sea Scrolls, which date from the first century BCE, assume that the Torah and the Prophets are authoritative, although it is not always certain what they include in those categories. The Scrolls, interestingly enough, refer to Daniel as prophet, and also treat the Psalms as a prophetic text.

The Writings

The third segment of the Hebrew Bible is known as the Writings. This includes the Psalms, Wisdom books (Job, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes), and the remaining books of the Bible such as Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, and Song of Songs. (The earlier historical books, Joshua, Judges, Samuel and Kings, are regarded as “the former prophets” in the Hebrew Bible). The category of the Writings was the last one to take definitive shape. The Dead Sea Scrolls include a wide range of writings that are not qualitatively different from the Writings in the Hebrew Bible. Some of the “biblical” books, such as Chronicles, are barely attested in the Dead Sea Scrolls, and the book of Esther is not attested at all. In contrast, many books that were not included in the Bible, such as the books of Enoch and Jubilees, were preserved in multiple copies in the Scrolls. The Scrolls do not set a limit to the number of sacred books that were authoritative. The Psalms were regarded as prophetic (and David as a prophet), but the collections of Psalms found in the Scrolls differ somewhat from those that were later regarded as biblical. They included some extra psalms, and arranged the psalms in a different order.

The Dead Sea Scrolls are generally believed to have been collected by the Essenes, a Jewish sect that flourished around the turn of the era. Their collection of sacred books was not necessarily the same as that of the Pharisees, or other Jews of the time. Unfortunately, we have no explicit evidence as to what books the Pharisees accepted as authoritative. Some scholars think that the books that make up the Hebrew Bible as we know it were those that were accepted by the Pharisees. Others think that the canon consisted of the books in the library of the Jerusalem temple. In any case, by the end of the first century CE, a consensus was emerging that the number of authoritative books was either 22 (according to the Jewish historian Josephus, writing towards the end of the first century, who also tells us about the Essenes) or 24 (the number given in the apocalypse, 4 Ezra, also written towards the end of the century). Most scholars think that Josephus and 4 Ezra were referring to the same books, but counting them differently. (For example, Judges and Ruth, Jeremiah and Lamentations, Ezra and Nehemiah, were each sometimes counted as one book). Even after the first century, however, there were still disputes about the status of some books.

The Deuterocanonical Books

In the Hellenistic and Roman periods (after 300 BCE) many Jews lived outside the land of Israel and used Greek as their primary language. The Law of Moses was translated into Greek in the third century BCE, and the Prophets and Writings sometime after that. There was also an extensive Jewish religious literature composed in Greek.

In the Diaspora (that is, the places where Jews lived outside of Israel) as in the Dead Sea Scrolls, no limit was set to the number of authoritative books. When the biblical books were eventually gathered together in large manuscripts, the Greek manuscripts included a larger collection than those included in the Hebrew Bible. Some of the additional books were translations of books that had been written in Hebrew. The long wisdom book of Ben Sira also known as Ecclesiasticus was written in Hebrew, but apart from a few quotations in rabbinic sources it was preserved only in Greek, Latin and Syriac (Aramaic), until Hebrew fragments were found in the Dead Sea Scrolls and also at Masada in the mid-twentieth century. A particularly interesting case is provided by the First Book of Maccabees, which was certainly written in Hebrew. It was a Jewish nationalistic book, written to glorify the Maccabees, who led the revolt against the Seleucids, the Greek kings of Syria in the 160’s BCE, and their descendants. Yet First Maccabees was not preserved by the rabbis. Nor is it found among the Dead Sea Scrolls. Apparently, some religious Jews did not like the Maccabees, who were known to take the law into their own hands, so to speak. So ironically, First Maccabees was preserved as scripture by the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches but was not preserved in Jewish synagogues. Other books, such as 2 Maccabees and the Wisdom of Solomon, were composed originally in Greek.

In the early Church, no one seems to have been too concerned about the exact limits of the biblical canon. No two manuscripts contain all the same books. Even lists of canonical books differ. Saint Jerome (347-420 CE) translated the Bible into Latin. Jerome professed belief in Hebraica veritas, the truth, or superiority, of the Hebrew, so he based his translations on the Hebrew rather than on the Greek. He also believed that only those books found in the Hebrew Bible should be canonical. He did, however, translate the other books found in the Greek manuscripts, although he regarded them as of lesser status. Some of these translations were rushed, and done badly, but nonetheless the additional books were made available in Latin.

Down through the Middle Ages, the Greek rather than the Hebrew tradition prevailed. At the time of the Reformation, however, Martin Luther went back to Jerome’s principle, and held only the books that were found in the Hebrew Bible as canonical. The Roman Catholic Church, in contrast, affirmed the larger collection at the Council of Trent (1545- 63). The Council, however, distinguished between the Protocanonical books, which were found in the Hebrew Bible, and the Deuterocanonical (or secondary canonical) ones, which were not. The Apocryphal/Deuterocanonical books are Ecclesiasticus (Ben Sira), 1 and 2 Maccabees, Wisdom of Solomon, Tobit, Judith, Baruch, and some passages in Esther and Daniel.

Catholic and Protestant Bibles

Ever since the Reformation and the Council of Trent, Catholics and Protestants have had different Old Testaments. The distinction, however, is often blurred. Modern Protestants often have Bibles that include the Apocrypha. Apocrypha means hidden away and “the Apocrypha” are the books that had been transmitted with the Bible but were rejected by the Reformers. Even Luther, however, acknowledged that the Apocrypha were “good to read,” in effect, approved spiritual reading but not Scripture.

The Apocrypha, however, do not correspond entirely to the Catholic Deuterocanonical books. The Oxford Annotated Bible with Apocrypha includes the following books that are in the Greek Bible but not in the Catholic canon: 1 Esdras, Prayer of Manasseh, Psalm 151, 3 Maccabees. 2 Esdras is in the Slavonic Bible and in the appendix to the Latin Vulgate. (It is known as 4, 5, and 6 Ezra in the Vulgate). 4 Maccabees, which is found in manuscripts of the Greek Bible, is also often included in the Apocrypha. Finally, the Greek Orthodox Bible includes the Psalms of Solomon, which date from the first century BCE, but these are not included in any Catholic or Protestant Bible.


From all of this it should be clear that the Bible did not drop from heaven in a tidy package. Rather it is made up of writings that won acceptance in Judaism or in the Christian churches over a long period of time. The contents of the Bible have always been contested. Catholics, Protestants, and Orthodox Christians all have different Bibles. Fortunately, at this point in time these differences are no longer invested with life and death significance, at least for most people. The Biblical canon has always had fuzzy edges, and there has always been a penumbra of books of related literature that is not qualitatively different, at least in any clear sense. The study of the Bible is actually enriched by attention to this penumbra, which helps to fill out the context in which the biblical books were written.

Further Reading

John J. Collins, “The Penumbra of the Canon. What do the Deuterocanonical Books Represent?,” in Géza G. Xeravits, József Zsengellér, Xavér Szabó, eds., Canonicity, Setting Wisdom in the Deuterocanonicals (Berlin: de Gruyter, 2014) 1-17.

Timothy H. Lim, The Formation of the Jewish Canon (Anchor Yale Bible Reference Library. New Haven: Yale, 2013).

Lee M. McDonald and James A. Sanders, eds. The Canon Debate (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2002).

Alvert C. Sundberg, The Old Testament of the Early Church (Cambridge, MA: Harvard, 1964).


Yale Bible Study

Formation of the Biblical Canon

II. New Testament

The canon of the New Testament took shape over a period of almost four centuries as Christians shaped the beliefs and practices of their movement. The process begins in the first century with the creation of accounts of the words and deeds of Jesus and correspondence from leaders of the Christian movement to congregations around the eastern Mediterranean.

Gospel Traditions and Gospels

The public ministry of Jesus began, according to the Gospel according to Luke in the fourteenth year of Tiberius Caesar, i.e., around 28 CE. His death on a cross in Jerusalem took place within a few years of that time, most likely in 30 CE. Stories about Jesus circulated orally, and perhaps also in some written form, in the decades immediately following his death and resurrection. His disciples, however, were not particularly interested in developing a collection of “scriptures.” Most expected Jesus to return in triumph, to inaugurate the fullness of the Kingdom of God on earth, a belief attested in Mark 9:1, in 1 Corinthians 7:31, and 1 Thessalonian 4:17. The first account of the ministry of Jesus, the Gospel according to Mark, was probably composed in its current form in the years immediately prior to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 CE. The gospel knows of “wars and rumors of wars” (Mark 13:7) and anticipates the desecration of the Temple (Mark 13:14-23) but portrays that event not in terms of the destruction that actually took place, but, echoing Daniel 12:11, in terms of a desecrating sacrilege (Mark 13:14), possibly a pagan statue or altar.

Mark’s succinct and fast moving gospel, probably designed to provoke disciples to renewed commitment to Jesus, told of this mysterious wonder worker who referred to himself as the Son of Man, who came to suffer and die (Mark 8:31; 9:31; 10:33), and whom they understood to be their redeemer (Mark 10:45). This account served as the basis for other efforts to tell the story of Jesus written after the Jewish revolt and in light of the destruction of the Temple. Matthew provided a framework to Mark that highlighted the teachings of Jesus about himself, about his ethical demands, about the context of the church community in which those demands were to be followed, and about the expectation of future judgment that awaited all humankind both good and evil alike. Matthew supplemented Mark with stories of the birth of Jesus and of his postresurrection appearances and supplied many sayings and parables of Jesus not found in Mark. Matthew crafted his gospel in a context in which Christianity was struggling to define itself over against the kind of rabbinic Judaism that was emerging from the Pharisaic movement in the wake of the disaster of ‘70.

Somewhat later Luke, which may have gone through more than one edition, did something very similar to Matthew, expanding the spare Markan account with stories and teachings, although Luke offered quite different accounts of the birth and postresurrection appearances of Jesus. He drew on traditions of sayings of Jesus very similar to what was available to Matthew, most likely from a now lost collection of sayings of Jesus, labeled “Q.” Both Matthew and Luke were probably completed in the last decades of the first century CE.

The Gospel according to John displays a complex pattern of similarity to and difference from the other known gospels. Although scholars have long debated exactly what the relationship of this gospel and other gospels might be, it is likely that the fourth evangelist knew and used the Matthew, Mark, and Luke alongside other early Christian traditions about the deeds and teachings of Jesus. The evangelist used that source material in his own creative way, fashioning a gospel that exercised a dramatic appeal to belief in Jesus.

The four gospels that became authoritative for the Church were not the only accounts of the life and teachings of Jesus that his followers composed in the first century of the Christian movement. Some other gospels became popular among Christians despite the fact that they never achieved the status of authoritative scriptures. These include the Infancy Gospel of Thomas, an account of the youth of Jesus between his birth and his visit to Jerusalem at age 12, a visit recorded in Luke. Other gospels are attested only as fragments or citations in writings of the first several centuries of the early church. These include the Gospel of the Hebrews, the Gospel of Nazoreans, the Gospel of the Ebionites, all presumably works with a strong Jewish flavor. Yet other gospels composed in antiquity were only rediscovered in modern times. These include the Gospel of Thomas, a collection of 114 sayings of Jesus found in 1945 at Nag Hammadi in Egypt. That text of the Gospel was written in Coptic, the native language of Egypt, but fragments of the text survive in Greek, which was probably the language in which this gospel was composed, probably in the second century.

A number of other ancient texts bear the title “Gospel,” but do not resemble the narratives of the life and teachings of Jesus that became authoritative. These include the Gospel of Truth, another text from the Nag Hammadi collection, which is a meditative homily on the significance of Jesus and his message, probably composed in the latter half of the second century. Here “gospel” is not a literary category, but a reference to content; to the “good news” that is the Christian message.

Epistles and other writings

What came to be authoritative scripture for Christians consists not only of accounts of the life and teachings of Jesus, but also writings of his followers. Chief among these are the Epistles of Paul. The earliest of Paul’s surviving letters, 1 Thessalonians, was probably written shortly after Paul evangelized the community, around 48 CE. The rest of undisputed epistles, Galatians, 1, 2 Corinthians, Romans, Philippians, and Philemon, were probably written in the mid 50’s while Paul was actively engaging in his mission to the gentiles in Greece and Asia Minor. As tradition suggests, Paul probably died in the persecution of Christians at Rome under the emperor Nero in 64 CE. His letters were collected, probably shortly after his death, edited and supplemented by other compositions by his disciples. These texts include 2 Thessalonians, Colossians, Ephesians, 1, 2 Timothy, and Titus, although some scholars think that some of these letters might be genuine letters of the apostle. The Epistle to the Hebrews, although not claiming to be by Paul, was also associated with the Pauline collection at some point in the second century.

The collection of Pauline letters may have inspired other collectors or additions of letters attributed to other apostles, Peter, James, Jude, and John. The collection of seven letters may also have inspired the author of the Book of Revelation, which begins with a series of seven messages, rather like little epistles, sent from Jesus to Christian congregations in Asia Minor.

The Development of an Authoritative Collection of Scripture

Many factors drove the process by which these texts from the first and early second century became authoritative. Some accounts of the life of Jesus probably became popular in local churches and were used in their worship and teaching. The associations of Matthew with Antioch, Mark with Alexandria, and John with Ephesus may reflect such local popularity. Justin Martyr 1 in mid-second-century Rome reports on the use of traditional literature in liturgical settings. In places like Rome, with Christians from around the Mediterranean, gospels favored by more than one local group were probably part of the scene.

The early second century saw the introduction of a gospel that sharpened debate about what was to be considered authoritative. The new gospel came onto the Roman scene at the hands of Marcion 2 , a wealthy Christian merchant from Pontus, in Asia Minor, who arrived in Rome around 138 and made a major financial contribution to the local church. He brought with him a gospel favored in his homeland which seemed close to Luke. Many of his critics thought that he had edited Luke, although some scholars have argued that Marcion’s gospel was simply a local account resembling Luke that may even have been a source used by the third evangelist. In any case, Marcion argued that authoritative Christian scripture, literature that could be read at worship and used to settle dogmatic debates, was limited to his gospel and a collection of Pauline epistles. Most controversially, Marcion claimed that Christians did not need the Old Testament, which depicted an inferior heavenly being who was not the God revealed by Jesus.

Christians who affirmed the connection between the Creator and the Redeemer, and who favored other gospels resisted Marcion’s claims and argued that their texts also should receive special treatment. Most agreed that more than one gospel merited authoritative status, but debated how many more should be recognized. In the decade or so after Marcion’s activity in Rome, some Christian teachers thought that four gospels should be recognized, and, moreover, that four could be harmonized into one account of the gospel story. That conviction came to literary expression in the Diatessaron, a work of Tatian 3 , a pupil of Justin Martyr. This was the first gospel harmony, presenting a single account of the words and deeds of Jesus drawn from four gospels but told as a single story glossing over the tensions between the different accounts. The Diatessaron itself has not survived, although there are works that comment on it and gospel harmonies in various languages of the Christian world.

Other writers in the second century explored the process by which their revered texts had come into being. Papias 4 , who is cited by the fourth-century historian Eusebius 5 , collected traditions about the authors of the gospels and provides the foundation of the now familiar legends about them. (Eusebius, Church History 3.39).

By the third quarter of the second century, leading Christian teachers defended the position that four and only four gospels, the ones we know as canonical, were to be recognized as authoritative for liturgical and theological purposes. Bishop Irenaeus 6 of Lyon, in his five-volume work Against the Heresies, written around 180, staunchly defended that position, and offered various arguments in its favor, including the association of the four evangelists with the four beasts of Ezekiel’s vision (Ezek 1:5). Irenaeus argued that authoritative works ought to have been written by apostles or their immediate disciples, be in conformity with the accepted beliefs of the Church expressed in its creeds, and be recognized by bishops. These considerations came to be the foundation on which the canon, and orthodox Christianity itself, was built.

Some Christian leaders in the second century may have compiled lists of works that they recognized as authoritative. One such list is the Muratorian Canon, a Latin enumeration of scriptural texts, which some scholars date to the second century, although others think that it is a fourth century composition. The list, in any case, overlaps with, but is not identical to the list of books that finally were recognized as authoritative scripture.

By the third century Christian thinkers were making a distinction between authoritative texts, works that were acceptable but not authoritative, and works that were to be rejected as purveyors of false doctrine yet the precise limits of what was authoritative remained fluid. Some works eventually canonized were respected in only part of the larger Christian world but rejected elsewhere. Thus the Epistle to the Hebrews, while generally accepted in the Greek east as at least worthy of Paul, was rejected in the Latin west as a work of someone else, Barnabas perhaps, as the thirdcentury North African theologian Tertullian argued. The Book of Revelation was widely revered in the Latin west, while leaders of the Church in the Greek east were uncomfortable with its disruptive apocalyptic expectations.

By the fourth century, the episcopal historian Eusebius could provide a detailed account of the debates of earlier generations of Christians about the scriptural works that they recognized, and this account is one of the major themes of his Church History. While Eusebius was concerned with what counts as authoritative scripture, he did not yet have a strictly limited canon or list of specific books. Such a list, containing the 27 books in the New Testament recognized by Latin and Greek Christian churches alike, appears in a letter by Athanasius, the bishop of Alexandria, who led the fourth century struggle against the Arian 7 heresy and in support of the doctrines defined at the Council of Nicaea in 325. This letter of 367 CE, one of the annual messages sent by Athanasius to the Churches of Egypt at Eastertime, names the books of the New Testament as we know it. Similar lists appeared soon appeared in the Latin West. The Damasine list is attributed to Pope Damasus (366-84) who presided over the Council of Rome in 382, shortly after the letter of Athansius. That document appears in some manuscripts as the first three chapters of the Decretum Gelasianum or Gelasian Decree, attributed to Pope Gelasius I (492-496), although probably written in the early sixth century. The relationship between the two documents has been debated, but they provide evidence that at least by the late fourth and certainly by the late fifth century the New Testament as we know it was known in Rome.

Further Reading:

Further Reading Jason BeDuhn, The First New Testament: Marcion’s Scriptural Canon (Polebridge, 2013).

David Brakke, “Canon Formation and Social Conflict in Fourth Century Egypt: Athanasius of Alexandria’s Thirty Ninth Festal Letter,” Harvard Theological Review 87 (1994)395–419. J

.K. Elliott, The Apocryphal New Testament: A Collection of Apocryphal Christian Literature in an English Translation Based on M.R. James (Oxford: Clarendon, 1993).

Hans Josef Klauck, Apocryphal Gospels: An Introduction (London T&T Clark, 2003).

Helmut Koester, Ancient Christian Gospels: Their History and Development (London: SCM; Philadelphia: Trinity Press International, 1990).

L. M. MacDonald and J. M. Sanders, eds., The Canon Debate (Hendrickson, 2002). Wilhelm Schneemelcher, New Testament Apocrypha (2 vols.); Cambridge: Clarke; Louisville: Westminster/John Knox, 1991-92).

Hans von Campenhausen, Formation of the Christian Bible (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1973).


1 Justin Martyr, a Christian apologist active in Rome in mid second century, best known for two Apologies, and the Dialogue with Trypho, an account of a debate with a Jewish teacher.

2 Marcion of Sinope (c. 85-c. 160), a Christian from Asia Minor, whose version of the New Testament, based on a gospel like that of Luke and the Pauline letter collection, spurred debate about what was authoritative scripture.

3 Tatian, a student of Justin Martyr, originally from Syria. He composed the Diatessaron, a harmony of the four gospels.

4 Papias, active in the early to mid-second century, born in Hierapolis is modern Turkey, he wrote the Exposition of the Sayings of the Lord, cited in Eusebius.

5 Eusebius, (c. 265-c. 340), bishop of Caesarea in Palestine, where he oversaw a library founded in the third century. He attended the Council of Nicaea (325) and supported the efforts of the emperor Constantine, to reconcile the Christian church and Roman political power. He is best known for his Church History, the first attempt to tell the story of Christianity from its inception.

6 Irenaeus of Lyon (c. 130- c. 200), born in Smyrna on the west coast of modern Turkey, he became the bishop of Lugdunum (modern Lyon) in France and wrote Against the Heresies in five volumes, around 180.

7 Arius of Alexandria, a Christian priest of the early fourth century, taught that Christ is not fully divine. His teaching led to controversies in the church of Alexandria. Constantine, who became emperor of the whole Roman world in 324 and who was sympathetic to the church, intervened and called the first ecumenical council, held in Nicaea in Northern Turkey in 325 CE. The council produced the Nicene Creed which affirms the full divinity of the Son.