|The New Testament books are written.|
|Marcion, a businessman in Rome, taught that there were two Gods: Yahweh, the cruel God of the Old Testament, and Abba, the kind father of the New Testament. Marcion eliminated the Old Testament as scriptures and, since he was anti-Semitic, kept from the New Testament only 10 letters of Paul and 2/3 of Luke’s gospel (he deleted references to Jesus’s Jewishness). Marcion’s “New Testament”, the first to be compiled, forced the mainstream Church to decide on a core canon: the four Gospels and Letters of Paul.|
|The periphery of the canon is not yet determined. According to one list, compiled at Rome c. AD 200 (the Muratorian Canon), the NT consists of the 4 gospels; Acts; 13 letters of Paul (Hebrews is not included); 3 of the 7 General Epistles (1-2 John and Jude); and also the Apocalypse of Peter.|
|The earliest extant list of the books of the NT, in exactly the number and order in which we presently have them, is written by Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria, in his Festal letter # 39 of 367 A.D..|
|Council of Rome (whereby Pope Damasus started the ball rolling for the defining of a universal canon for all city-churches). Listed the New Testament books in their present number and order.|
|the Council of Hippo, which began “arguing it out.” Canon proposed by Bishop Athanasius.|
|The Council of Carthage, which refined the canon for the Western Church, sending it back to Pope Innocent for ratification. In the East, the canonical process was hampered by a number of schisms (esp. within the Church of Antioch). However, this changed by …|
|The Ecumenical Council of Nicaea II, which adopted the canon of Carthage. At this point, both the Latin West and the Greek / Byzantine East had the same canon. However, … The non-Greek, Monophysite and Nestorian Churches of the East (the Copts, the Ethiopians, the Syrians, the Armenians, the Syro-Malankars, the Chaldeans, and the Malabars) were still left out. But these Churches came together in agreement, in 1442A.D., in Florence.|
|AD : At the Council of Florence, the entire Church recognized the 27 books. This council confirmed the Roman Catholic Canon of the Bible which Pope Damasus I had published a thousand years earlier. So, by 1439, all orthodox branches of the Church were legally bound to the same canon. This is 100 years before the Reformation.|
|In his translation of the Bible from Greek into German, Luther removed 4 N.T. books (Hebrews, James, Jude, and Revelation) and placed them in an appendix saying they were less than canonical.|
|At the Council of Trent, the Catholic Church reaffirmed once and for all the full list of 27 books. The council also confirmed the inclusion of the Deuterocanonical books which had been a part of the Bible canon since the early Church and was confirmed at the councils of 393 AD, 373, 787 and 1442 AD. At Trent Rome actually dogmatized the canon, making it more than a matter of canon law, which had been the case up to that point, closing it for good.|
|20s||*c. 29 AD Our Lord’s Resurrection. The First Pentecost. St. Peter preaches in Jerusalem and converts three thousand people, creating the first Christian community.|
|30s||*c. 35 Saul of Tarsus has an apparition of Jesus Christ and is converted to Christianity.*c. 39 St. Peter baptizes Cornelius. This event marks the beginning of the missionizing to the Gentiles.|
|40s||*42 The first persecution of Christians in Jerusalem under Herod Agrippa. Many Christians escape to Antioch, establishing its first community.*44 Martyrdom of St. James the Great, brother of the Apostle John. He is the first apostle to die for the faith. He was sentenced by Herod Agrippa in 44 AD. Today he is honored at the shrine of Santiago Compostela.|
|50s||*c. 51 The Council of Jerusalem. It rules that Gentile converts do not have to observe the Moasaic Law.|
*62 Martyrdom of St James the Less, Bishop of Jerusalem. He is stoned to death.*64 First persecution of the Christians by Nero, who blames them for setting a fire that burned much of Rome. Christianity soon after becomes a capital crime.
*66 Jews revolt against Roman authority. The Christians, remembering the prophecies of Christ, leave Jerusalem, led by their bishop, St. Simeon. A civil war ensues. Nero sends Vespasian and Titus to put down the insurrection.
*67 Martyrdom of St. Peter. Tradition states that he was crucified upside down. St. Linus succeeds him as pope (-76).
*69 Fall of Jerusalem. The Temple is destroyed. Tacitus records that 600 000 Jews were slaughtered during the siege; Josephus said it was a million.
|70s||*76 Pope St. Cletus (Anacletus) reigns(-88).|
|80s||*c. 88 The reign of Pope St. Clement I (-97). During his pontificate, he issues a letter to the Corinthians, urging them to submit themselves to lawful religious authority. He writes “Our apostles also knew, through our Lord Jesus Christ, and there would be strife on account of the office of the episcopate. For this reason, therefore, inasmuch as they had obtained a perfect fore-knowledge of this, they appointed those [ministers] already mentioned, and afterwards gave instructions, that when these should fall asleep, other approved men should succeed them in their ministry.”|
|90s||*95 Persecution of Christians in Rome under Domitian.*97 Pope St. Evaristus accedes to the Chair of Peter (-105).|
*c. 100 Death of John, the last apostle. The period of Public Revelation comes to an end.*c.100 Birth of St. Justin Martyr (d. c. 165), Church Father. He wrote two Apologies of the Faith, and A Dialogue with Trypho, the Jew. In his writings, he bears witness to a number of Catholic doctrines. In one famous passage, he describes the Order of the Mass.
*c. 105 Death of Pope St. Evaristus. Pope St. Alexander I replaces him (-115).
*c.107-117 Martyrdom of St. Ignatius of Antioch, apostolic Father and bishop. He was a disciple of St. John, along with St. Polycarp. Theodoret, the Church historian says he was consecrated bishop by St. Peter, who was at first bishop of Antioch before going to Rome. Ignatius was martyred in Rome under Emperor Trajan’s rule. It was during the journey to Rome that he wrote his famous letters that contain invaluble information about the early Church. He was the first to use the term “Catholic” to describe the Church.
*111 Pliny the Younger, govenor of Bithynia, writes in a letter to the Emperor Trajan that to his surprise, the Christians are not guilty of any of the vices they are rumoured to engage in. He executes Christians who would not apostatize.*c. 115 Pope St. Sixtus I begins his reign (-125).
*117 Persecution of Christians under Hadrian (-138).
|120s||*125 Pope St. Telesphorus begins his reign (-136).|
*c.130 Birth of St. Irenaeus of Lyons, Church Father and bishop. He had heard St. Polycarp in Smyrna. He wrote a famous treatise, Against Heresies, refuting Gnosticism, and intervened in favour of the Quartodecimians when they were excommunicated by Pope Victor I for not observing Easter according the Roman Calendar (i.e. the first Sunday after the full moon after the Spring equinox).*135 Emperor Hadrian excludes Jews from Jerusalem.
*136 Pope St. Hyginus accedes to the see of Peter (-140).
|140s||*140 Election of Pope St. Pius I (-155).*144 Marcion of Pontus is excommunicated for heresy (Marcionism): he believed that the God of the Old Testament is a different God than that of the new, and that he is a vengeful God; he denied the inspiration of the Old Testament. Marcionites established a parallel church that survived for several centuries.|
|150s||*155 Death of Pope St. Pius I. St. Anicetus becomes Pope (-166).*c. 156 Martyrdom of St. Polycarp, disciple of St. John the apostle. First recorded instance of devotion to a martyr and the devotion to relics in the Martyrdom of Polycarp.|
*c. 160 Birth of Tertullian, Church Father. Tertullian apostatized to the Montanist sect and in his later years rejected the Catholic Church. However, in his earlier years, c. 200 AD, he justified Catholic belief against heretics by appealing to the apostolic origin of the Church, whereas the heretics and their heresies were subsequent to it.*165 Death of St. Justin Martry (b. 100), Church Father.
*166 St. Soter becomes Pope. (-175).
*172 Montanus launches his Montanist movement, based on his private revelations. He claimed that there was an age of the Father (the Old Testament), the Age of the Son (the New Testament) and the age of the Holy Spirit, which he would inaugurate and which would announce the end of the world. It denied the divine nature of the Church and preached a very rigorous morality.*175 St. Eleutherius succeeds as pope (-189).
*c.176-177 Athenagoras writes Embassy for the Christians, aka Apology, a work addressed to the Emperor Marcus Aurelius and his son Commodus that shows the reasonableness of the Christian faith and the absurdity of the charges made against Christians. It also defended the notion of the Trinity.
*177 St. Irenaeus of Lyons, Against All Heresies, a work of apologetics refuting Gnosticism, which claimed salvation through an esoteric knowledge. Irenaeus argues that this belief counters that universal tradition handed down from the apostles, and that the bishops are the successors of the apostles who have the authority to transmit Revelation. To make his point, he lists the succession of popes beginning with Peter.
*185 Birth of Origen, controversial Church Father. His writings were, in many ways, productive for the orthodox faith. However, a number of his ideas were problematic or downright heretical. Among them: his excessive allegorism in Scriptural interpretation, his subordinationist tendencies, his belief in eternal creation and final salvation of all souls. His writings sparked complex doctrinal controversies. In spite of the problems, he had many admirers among orthodox Fathers.*189 Pope Victor I takes over the See of Peter. (-199)
*189 Pope Victor I excommunicates the Quartodecimians. The Quartodecimians of Asia Minor reckoned the date of Easter according to the Jewish Passover, as 14 Nisan, regardless of whether or not it fell on a Sunday, contrary to the majority of the faithful in various parts of the Empire. Pope Victor ordered Bishop Polycrates of Ephesus to call a synod and have the bishops of Proconsular Asia submit to the Roman practice. The bishop called the synod, but the assembly refused to submit, citing that the apostles John and Philip followed the same custom. The pope then excommunicated the bishops and their followers. St. Irenaues protested this action as too harsh, but did not say the pope had overstepped his authority. This is the first record of an episcopal council in the post-apostolic age.
|190s||*190 Pope Victor I excommunicates Theodotus for his denial that Jesus is God. The latter gathered together a band of followers, whose teachings would eventually influenced Paul of Samosata, the true originator of Arianism.*199 Pope St. Zephyrinus accedes to the See of Peter (-217). Pope Zephyrinus was not inclined to philosophical speculation and would not either endorse or condemn St. Hippolytus’ attacks against the Monarchian heresy. This made the pope’s faith appear suspect.|
*c. 200 Death of St. Irenaeus of Lyons, Church Father and bishop.*c. 200 Monarchianism makes its appearance. In contrast to Arianism, Monarchians affirm Jesus is God, but in order to safeguard the unity of God, they essentially deny the distinction between the Son and the Father. St. Hippolytus was an ardent opponent of this heresy.
*202 Emperor Septimius Severus persecutes Christians with the aim of establishing one common religion in the Empire.
*c.208 The first record of prayers for the dead in the writings of the Church Fathers. Tertullian writes that a good widow prays for her dead husband’s soul in On Monogamy.
*c.213 Birth of St. Gregory of Neocaesarea, (d. c. 270) aka the Wonderworker, aka Thaumaturgus. He defended the Unity and the Trinity of God in his writings.*217 Death of Pope St. Zephyrinus. Pope St. Callistus I succeeds him (-222). Callistus was a former slave who was in charge of his master’s bank. He lost a lot of money to bad debts, some of the debtors being Jews. When he attempted to recover the money, some Jews denounced him as a Christian and he was sent to the mines of Sardinia, but survived to return to Rome in 190 AD. During Pope Zephyrinus’ reign, he was a power behind the throne, making his faith appear suspect to the future anti-pope St. Hippolytus.
*217 Election of anti-pope St. Hippolytus, Church Father, the first anti-pope in Church history, and the only one venerated as a saint. He considered Pope St. Callistus I to be a Monarchian heretic, and he continued his claim to the Chair of Peter through to the reign of Pope St. Pontian. He reconciled with the Church before being martyred in the mines of Sardinia in 235.
*220 Pope St. Callistus I excommunicates Sabellius, a priest who taught that the Son of God did not exist before the Incarnation, and that God exists in three “modes” but not in three persons, therefore the Son and the Father suffered at the passion. This heresy, Sabellianism, would become prevalent in the fourth century.*222 St. Urban I becomes Pope (-230).
*222 Alexander Severus becomes emperor (-235). He lifted many harsh laws against the Christians, and essentially gave them the right to exist as a religion. They now had the right to own property and assemble for worship. He had a personal devotion to Jesus Christ, but he honoured him as one among many gods.
*230 Death of Tertullian, Church Father who later joined the Montanists, a heretical sect. His writings are invaluable for the historical testimony they provide.*230 St. Pontian succeeds St. Urban I as pope (-235). In 235, the Emperor Maximian launched a persecution against the heads of the Church. Pontian was banished to the mines of Sardinia. In order to make possible the election of a new pope, he resigned.
*235 Pope St. Anterus reigns for forty days (-236).
*236 Election of Pope St. Fabian (-250). Eusebius relates in his history of the Church that when it came time to elect a new pope, the assembly put forward several names of prominent people, but a dove rested on Fabian’s head, whom no one had considered for the office. The assembly took it as a sign of divine favour and selected him as the new pope.
*250-251 The Decian Persecution. The Emperor Decius requires all citizens in every town and village of the Empire to perform acts of worship to the gods of the State. People suspected of Christianity are brought before a commission and required to sacrifice. Refusal meant a long prison stay and subjection to torture so that the accused would apostatize. Failing that, they are put to death. Many Christians apostatize or obtain certificates stating that they had sacrificed. This systematic persecution produces numerous martyrs.*250 Martyrdom of Pope St. Fabian in the Decian persecution. He was not given the opportunity to apostatize but was swifty executed for his faith.
*c. 250 The devotion to martyrs, once a more private practice, becomes widespread after the Decian persection due to the great numbers of martyrs it produced.
*c. 250 Birth of St. Anthony of Egypt (d. 355) considered to be the founder of monasticism. Approximately 5000 disciples of both sexes had gathered around him in the Nitrian desert (Egypt), despite his opposition. We know of him through a biography of St. Athanasius.
*251 Council of Cartage under St. Cyprian allows those who lapsed during the persecution to be readmitted after a period of penance.
*251 Pope St. Cornelius succeeds Pope St. Fabian (-253).
*251 Novatian becomes the second anti-pope in Church history (-258). He strongly disagrees with Pope Cornelius’ stance allowing those who apostatized during the Decian persecution to return to the fold after a suitable penance. He insisted on permanent excommunication for them. This period is known as the Novatian Schism. The Novatian church will continue to exist up to the eighth century, but will be absorbed by the Catholic Church.
*c. 251 St. Cyprian writes his famous treaty, On the Unity of the Church. He argues that the Church was founded on Peter, and that the local bishop was the head of the local Church. In practice, however, he contradicted himself by asserting that the pope could not make him accept Christians baptized by heretics.
*c. 253 Death of Origen, Church Father. He probably died from the tortured he suffered under the Decian persecution.
* 253 Election of Pope St. Lucius I (-254).
*254 St. Stephen I is elected Pope (-257). He is the first pope known to have invoked Matt. 16:18 as evidence for the authority of the Chair of Peter.
*256 Pope St. Stephen I upholds the baptisms administered by heretics.
*257 The Emperor Valerian launches a persecution against Christians (-259). The clergy is summoned to sacrifice to the pagan gods. If they refused, the church property they legally held in the church’s name was to be confiscated and they were to be exiled (a year later, the penalty would be immediate execution). All faithful Christians who met in religious assemblies were punishable by death.
*257 St. Sixtus II becomes Pope (-258). He was arrested very shortly after his election and beheaded for his faith.
*258 Martyrdom of St. Cyprian of Carthage. He defended the readmission to the Church of those who apostatized during persecution, but rejected the idea that baptism by heretics and schismatics is valid. In his writings, he defended the primacy of Peter as the source of unity in the Church. He remained the foremost Latin writer until Jerome. At his execution, his followers placed cloths and handkerchiefs near his place of execution in order to catch his blood and thereby have a relic of him.
*259 Peace of Gallenius. Emperor Gallenius succeeds to the throne, ends the persecution of Christians and legally recognizes their existence. Church property is restored. This peace lasts for forty years. Churches are built, bishops gain social prestige and Christians acquire more social status. Christians serve the regimes of various emperors. Christianity still remains a target for hostility.
*259 Pope St. Dionysius begins his pontificate (-268).
*c. 260 Birth of Eusebius of Caesarea, Church Father, bishop and “Father of Church history.” his Church history is an important source of information about the Early Church. He also wrote the Life of Constantine.*261 A period of relative peace begins for the Church (-303).
*c. 265 Three councils held at this time in Antioch condemn Paul of Samosata, bishop of Antioch, for his heretical teachings on the relationship of God the Father and God the Son. He maintained that Jesus the man was distinct from the Logos and became the Son of God through adoption because of his merits, and that God is only One Person. His teachings were a pre-cursor to the Arianist heresies of the fourth century and beyond.
*269 Pope St. Felix I fills the See of Peter (-274).
*c.270-275 Death of St. Gregory of Neocaesarea (b. c.213) , aka the Wonderworker, aka Thaumaturgus, Church Father and bishop.*c. 272 Crucifixion of Mani by Bahram, king of Persia. Mani founded the Manichaean religion, which centred on the battle between the good god and the evil god. He had travelled widely, going as far as India, and drew from many philosophies and religions– including Buddhism. He also claimed to be the Paraclete. His religious ideas would persist throughout the Middle Ages, and were adopted by the Cathari and the Bogomils.
*272 Emperor Aurelian rules that the bishop of a city is whomever the bishops of Italy and Rome acknowledge as such. The ruling deprived the deposed Paul of Samosata, bishop of Antioch, of all church property–including churches. This way the secular arm made it possible for Rome to effectively depose bishops.
*275 Pope St. Eutychian succeeds Pope St. Felix I.(-283).
|280s||*283 Pope St. Caius is elected head of the Church (-296).*285 Partition of the Roman Empire into Eastern and Western halves. Diocletian rules the Eastern half, Maximian, the Western.|
*293 Diocletian forms the Tetrarchy. In order to improve the transition of power upon the death of an emperor, Diocletian created a system of co-rulers. Thus, the Emperors are Augusti, their heirs apparent are Caesars. Diocletian chooses Galerius as Caesar; Maximian chooses Constantius I Chlorus. The Tetrarchy system would eventually fail in its goal of assuring smooth transitions of power.*296 Election of Pope St. Marcellinus I (-304).
*c. 297 Birth of St. Athanasius (d. 373), Doctor of the Church. Archbishop of Alexandria. He was a staunch defender of the Divinity of Jesus Christ against Arianism, and was exiled sevral times for his orthodoxy.
*c. 300 Christianity introduced in Armenia.*Constantine re-unites both halves of the Empire, becomes sole emperor.
*302 Growing intolerance of Christians leads to the army and the imperial service being closed to professed Christians.
*303 Persecution of Christians by Diocletian through a series of edicts.All people were to worship state gods. Churches were to be destroyed, Christian books were to be burned. The first act of the persecution was to burn down the cathedral at Nicomedia.
*304 Christians faithful to the their religion are now subject to the death penalty. The government commits massacres to terrify the faithful.
*304 Death of Pope St. Marcellinus I.
*305 Emperors Diocletian and Maximian resign. Galerius, viciously anti-Christian, succedes as emperor in the East. The new emperor in the West, Constantius Chlorus, ceases the persecution in his domains.
*c. 305 The Council of Elvira, Spain approves the first canon imposing clerical celibacy.
*306 Constanine becomes the emperor in the West and continues the policy of toleration towards Christians.
*306 Galerius orders all his subjects to make pagan sacrifices.
*306 Birth of St. Ephraem the Syrian (d. 373), Doctor of the Church. Known as the Harp of the Holy Spirit. Author of the Nisibene Hymns, some of which are Marian.
*308 Election of Pope St. Marcellus I (-309). His stance against apostates who demanded immediate re-entry into the Church raised a commotion and led to the Emperor Maxentius exiling him. He died soone after leaving Rome.
*309 Reign of Pope St. Eusebius.
*310 Sapor II becomes king of the Persian Empire (-381). Until the third century, the Church grew in Persia without persecution. However, with the accession of the Sassinid Dynasty (227 AD) the Church became suspect and was eventually persecuted. Under Sapor II, Christians are subject to a persecution worse than any undertaken by the Roman Emperors. It was considered the religion of the Roman Empire, with whom the Persian were constantly at war.*311 An edict of toleration is emitted in the names of Galerius, Constantine and Licinius. The emperors come to realize that persecution produced non-believers in either the gods of the state or in the Christian God. Emperor Maximinus of Daza only follows the policy for six months, then continues the persecution in the East.
*31l Pope St. Militiades begins his reign (-314).
*311 The Beginning of the Donatist Schism. Donatus, Primate of Numidia, will not recognize the election of Cecilian as Bishop of Carthage. Cecillian’s consecrator is Felix of Aptonga, a man who had allegedly apostatized under Maximian’s persecution (303-305). To the Donatists, apostasy and other serious sins destroys a priest’s spiritual powers. The priest’s powers are therefore dependent on his personal holiness. Donatus holds a council which illegally elects a pretendant to the see. Although he lives in Carthage, Donatus has no jurisdiction there.
*312 Martyrdom of Lucian of Antioch during the persecution of Maximinus of Daza. He taught that the Word (logos) was a creature. He taught Arius, the heresiarch, and his teaching was at the origin of the Arian heresy. He is also known for having rejected allegorical interpretations and was strongly literal in his biblical interpreations. He reconciled with the Church.
*312 Constantine defeats the Emperor Maxentius at the battle of the Milvian Bridge. The night before the battle, Constantine has a vision of a cross in the sky and the words “In this sign you shall conquer.” After the victory, Constantine orders that the cross be put on the soldiers’ shields and standards. Once Constantine enters Rome, he offers the Lateran Palace to the Pope as a residence.
*313 Edict of Milan. Toleration of Christians in the Western Roman Empire. All people, not only Christians, have freedom of religion so long as they render honour to “the divinity.” Emperor Constantine returns Church property. In the Eastern Empire, Maximinus continues to persecute Christians until he grants them toleration in a last-ditch effort to gain their favour and keep alive his struggle against his enemy Licinius.
*313 Constantine intervenes on the Donatist schism and recognizes the election of Cecillian of Carthage, the orthodox candidate. The churches held by Donatists are handed over to Catholics.
*313 The Lateran palace makes its first appearance in Catholic history as it is the scence of an appeal of the Donatists in the matter of Cecillian’s election as Bishop of Carthage. Emperor Constantine chose the bishops to sit on the tribunal, but the pope presided over it. It rules in favour of Cecillian.
*314 St. Sylvester I is elected Pope (-335)
*c.314 Constantine agrees to hear a new appeal by the Donatists in the case of Cecillian’s Episcopal election. This time the appeal is brought to a secular court. The Donatists maintained that Felix of Aptonga could not have validly ordained Cecillian because he had apostatized during a persecution. The police books of the persecution were produced, and there was no evidence Felix had ever been arrested. It was also shown that the Donatists had attempted to forge the certificate proving his guilt. Constantine sends this evidence to the Council of Arles, where the Fathers note that the Donatists are “crazy fanatics, a danger to Christianity.” They rule in favour of Cecillian.
*315 Birth of St. Cyril of Jerusalem (d. 387), Doctor of the Church. He fought Arianism in the East.
*315 Birth of St. Hilary of Poitiers (d. 368), Doctor of the Church.
*316 Constantine hears another appeal of the Donatists in the matter of the election of Cecillian of Carthage. He rules in favour of Cecillian. He rules that the churches held by the Donatists were to be handed over to the Catholics, and that the Donatists were forbidden to meet.
*c. 318 Beginnings of the Arianist controversy. Arius taught: that the Father and the Son were not of the same substance, and therefore the latter was inferior; and that the Word (Logos) is a creature and that the Holy Spirit is a creature of the Logos.
*320 St. Pachomius founds the first two monasteries– on for each sex in Tabennisi.*321 The Donatists appeal to Constantine for toleration. He grants it, in spite of his contempt for the sect.
*323 Licinius, Emperor of the East launches a persecution against Christians.
*323 Constantine and Licinius do battle at Chrysopolis. Licinius dies six months later. Constantine has no rival and is the sole ruler of the Empire. Constantine preserves freedom of religion but his attitude towards paganism becomes contemptuous. Paganism and Christianity enjoy equal status before the law.
*325 The Council of Nicea. Presided by Emperor Constantine and Hosius of Cordoba. Pope St. Sylvester I sends papal legates, being too old to make the journery from Rome. Many of the bishops in attendance had been physically injured in the persecutions of previous decades. The Council defines trinitarian belief in God. The Father and God the Son are declared of the same substance against the teachings of Arius. Emperor Constantine considers heresy to be a form of rebellion, and banishes Arian bishops to Illyria.
*325 Building of Church of Natitvity, Bethlehem.
*326 Constantine recognizes the Novatian Church, the parallel Church established under the Novatian schism in the preceding century. It would die out a century later in Rome, but would survive until at least the seventh century in the East.
*329 Birth of St. Basil the Great (d. 379), Doctor of the Church and father of Eastern monasticism. He was the first to draw up a rule of life and he developed the concept of the novitiate.
*c. 329 Birth of St. Gregory of Nanzianzus (d. 389), Doctor of the Church, one of the traditional four Greek Doctors.
*330 Building of first St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. It was torn down in 1506 and re-built.*330 Birth of St. Gregory Nanzianzus (d. 390), Doctor of the Church. One of the Cappadocian Fathers.
*331 Seat of the Roman Empire moved to Constantinople (formerly Byzantium).
*331 Bishop Eusebius of Nicomedia, an Arian, schemes to have a local synod depose the orthodox bishop Eustathius of Antioch. Constantine recognizes the authority of the synod and expels Eustathius. His successor, Paulinus of Tyre dies a few months later, and, for the first time in history, a secular ruler interferes in the choice of a bishop. Constantine recommends the Arian Euphronios, who was elected.
*335 By this time Eusebius of Nicomedia succeeds in convincing the emperor of his orthodoxy by proposing at the Council of Jerusalem an ambiguous formula of faith to which both Arians and Catholics can adhere.
*336 Reign of Pope St. Mark.
*336 Death of Arius, heresiarch, creator of the Arian herersy. Right before his death, the Emperor Constantine’s sister, Constantia, requested on her deathbed that Arius be recalled from his place of banishment and exonerated. The Emperor paid heed to her request. He ordered the bishop of Alexandria to give Arius Communion, but the latter died right before he was to receive. The populace views it a sign of divine condemnation.
*336 The earliest record of the celebration of Christmas in Rome. The East kept the Feast of Epiphany, January 6th.
*337 Death of Constantine. He was baptized on his deathbed by bishop Eusebius of Nicomedia, an ally of Arius. The Empire is ruled by his three sons, Constantine II, Constantius II and Constans.
*337 Election of Pope St. Julius I (-352).
*338 Election of St. Julius I (-352).
*c. 340-350 The Arian bishop Ulfilas makes a corrupt translation of the Bible into the Gothic language and converts the Goths. From then on, barbarian tribes that converted to Christianity were Arian, until the conversion of the Franks in the 6th century.*340 Birth of St. Ambrose of Milan, one of the four traditional Latin Doctors of the Church. He baptized St. Augustine. He fought the Arian heresy in the West and promoted consecrated virginity.
*341 Emperors Constants and Constantius II abolish and prohibit pagan sacrifices. Pagan sentiment becomes very anti-Christian.
*341 Death of Eusebius of Nicomedia, bishop of Constantinople. He schemed to depose Catholic bishops throughout the empire and replace them with Arians. He made Arians appear orthodox through ambiguous formulas of faith.
*c. 343 Birth of St. Jerome (d. 420), one of the four traditional Doctors of the Latin Church. He translated the Bible from Hebrew and Greek texts into Latin and produced the first authoritative translation, the Vulgate. At that time, Latin was still a vernacular language. He also wrote a treaty against Helvidius, upholding the Virgin Birth.
*347 Birth of St. John Chrysostom (d. 407), Doctor of the Church and Bishop of Constantinople. He is the foremost Greek Doctor of the Church, known especially for his homilies on Scripture. He alienated the court at Constaninople with his preaching against the vanities of the rich. The conspiracy of his enemies resulted in his exile. The pope and many Western bishops supported him but could not obtain justice for him.
*347 Emperor Constans ends the toleration of Donatists in Numidia. The period of Donatist dominance in Africa had been one of license, including riots and massacres. He exiles the Donatist bishops and hands their churches to Catholics.
*350 Assassination of Emperor Constans. Constantius II, an Arian, becomes sole Emperor. Arians attempt to link St. Athanasius with Constans’ assassin.*353 Emperor Constantius II prohibits idol worship under penalty of death. The Western Empire is majoritarily Pagan.
*352 Reign of Pope Liberius (-366), the first pope who is not considered a saint. He would not be pressured by Constantius to condemn St. Athanasius.
*354 Birth of St. Augustine of Hippo (d. 430), Doctor of the Church. One of the four traditional Doctors of the Latin Church. One of the greatest theologians in the history of the Church. Among his most famous works: Confessions, City of God, On the Trinity.
*354 Constantius II ignores his own law and confirms the rights and privileges of the city of Rome, including their share of state subsidies.
*c. 355 Constantius II kidnaps Pope Liberius to pressure him to condemn St. Athanasius, and thereby approve the Arian creed. The pope refuses and is banished to Baerea in Thrace. Constantius attempts to replace Liberius with Felix, but the laypeople of Rome would not hear of it.
*357 Constantius II is persuaded to allow Pope Liberius to return to Rome. There is some dispute as to whether his return was prompted by his signing a semi-Arian formula that would have satisfied Constantius, or by the Roman faithful, who drove out Felix, the anti-pope. Much appears to be uncertain about this situation.
*c. 360 Scrolls begin to be replaced by books.*361 Emperor Julian “the Apostate” becomes Roman Emperor (-363). He was brought up in Arian Christianity in his early childhood, but was tutored by Pagans in his adolescence. Upon his accession to the throne, he attempts revive Paganism, and in his contempt the Christian Faith, he tries to re-build the Temple in Jerusalem, but fails.
*362 Emperor Julian recalls the exiled Donatist bishops.
*363 Emperor Julian “the Apostate” dies before getting a chance to launch a systematic persecution against the Christians, although mobs that riot and kill them go unpunished.
*363 Jovinian, a Catholic, becomes Emperor. He restores toleration for all religions.He reigns only for nine months.
*364 Valentinian, a Catholic, now rules the Western empire (-375). He takes the property of State-run temples, but instead of handing it over to the Church, as Constantius II did, he puts the imperial treasury in charge of it.
*364 The Arian Valens becomes Emperor of the Eastern Empire (-378). He seeks to Arianize his Christian subjects and makes life difficult for Catholics.
*366 Reign of Pope St. Damasus I (-384). He is most famous for compelling St. Jerome to undertake a faithful translation of the Scriptures, the version known as the Vulgate. St. Damasus condemned Apollinarianism and Macedonianism. He approved the canons of the Ecumenical Council of Constantinople (381).
*c. 368 Death of St. Hilary of Poitiers (b. 315), Doctor of the Church and bishop. He was exiled for his orthodox faith by the Emperor Constantius, but eventually was able to return to Poitiers. He attempted to reconcile the Semi-Arians and the orthodox faithful.
*370 Valens, Emperor of the East, orders the bishops of his realm to conform to an Arian formula on pain of of deposition and exile. Many refuse. Their churches are handed over to Arian appointees. Other dioceses organize resistance, and in some cases massacres ensue.*373 Death of St. Athanasius (b. 297), Doctor of the Church, Bishop of Alexandria.
*373 Death of St. Ephraim of Nisibis, Church Father. Gratian, Emperor of the Western Empire (-383). He abolishes the office of Pontifex Maximus, the head of the Pagan religion, which, by default, was held by the Roman Emperor, even if he was Christian (although he did not necessarily exercise the office). Under the influence of Ambrosius, Gratian prohibited Pagan worship at Rome; refused to wear the insignia of the pontifex maximus as unbefitting a Christian; removed the Altar of Victory from the Senate House at Rome, despite protests of the pagan members of the Senate, and confiscated its revenues; forbade legacies of real property to the Vestals; and abolished other privileges belonging to them and to the pontiffs. Nevertheless he was still deified after his death. Gratian also published an edict that all their subjects should profess the faith of the bishops of Rome and Alexandria (i.e., the Nicene faith). The move was mainly thrust at the various beliefs that had arisen out of Arianism, but smaller dissident sects, such as the Macedonians, were also prohibited.
*376 Birth of St. Cyril of Alexandria (d. 444), Doctor of the Church. Opposed Nestorianism.
*377 A synod in Rome condemns the teachings of Apollinaris of Laodicea. Apollinarism posited that Christ had a human body and a human sensitive soul, but his rational mind was taken over by the Logos or the Divine nature of the Second Person of the Trinity. It was also condemned at the first Council of Constantinople, 381.
*379 Theodosius, a devout Catholic, becomes the Eastern Roman Emperor (-395). For the first time in half a century, the State would favour Catholicism over Arianism. Theodosius is the first emperor to legislate against heresy. The churches of heretics are to be confiscated and handed over to the Catholic Church. Heretical gatherings are forbidden and heretics cannot make wills or inherit. He also legislates against apostasy from Christianity to Paganism.
*379 Death of St. Basil the Great (b. 329), Doctor of the Church.
*c. 381 Emperor Theodosius makes Christianity the de facto official religion of the Empire by forbidding the worship of the ancient Gods.*381 The First Council of Constantinople. Presided by Pope Damasus and Emperor Theodosius I. It proclaimed the divinity of the Holy Spirit.
*382 By this time, the pagan priesthood in the Western Empire no longer enjoys any of its former privileges, and the State has confiscated temple property, making their legacies void.
*383 Roman legions begin to leave Britain. British Christians gradually disconnected from Rome until St. Augustine of Canterbury re-introduces the faith in 590.
*384 Pope St. Siricius begins his reign (-399).
*c. 385 Priscillian becomes the first heretic ever sentenced to death under a Christian prince. He was executed for witchcraft, which was a capital offense, but in reality, he made enemies because of his Manichaean doctrines. Many in the Church protest this action. St. Martin of Tours objects to the interference of a lay court in an ecclesiastical matter. Pope Siricius denounces Bishop Ithacus of Treves for being the leader of the campaign against Priscillian.
*c. 386 Death of St. Gregory of Nyssa, Church Father, brother of St. Basil the Great. Before he became a monk, he was married. His wife either died or became a nun.
*c. 386 Death of St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Bishop and Doctor of the Church. He is famous for a quotation demonstrating the antiquity of the practice of Commuion in the hand: “Do not come with thy palms stretched flat nor with fingers separated. But making thy left hand a seat for thy right, and hollowing thy palm, receive the Body of Christ, responding Amen.”
*386 St. Ambrose refuses to hand over a church to the Arian sect when ordered to do so by the Emperor. In a sermon he says a famous phrase ” The emperor is within the Church, and not above the Church.” He says of the Arians: ” it has been the crime of the Arians, the crime which stamps them as the worst of all heretics, that “they were willing to surrender to Caesar the right to rule the Church.” The Emperor backs down.
*388 Christians attack and burn down a synagogue in Callinicum at the instigation of the Bishop. St. Ambrose persuades Emperor Theodosius to not force the local bishop to pay for its restoration. In a letter to the Emperor, he makes many arguments, but principal among them is that re-building the synagogue would amount to being disloyal to the Faith, and that the law is unfairly applied, seeing as Jews burned a number of churches during the reign of Julian the Apostate, and no one was punished. The Emperor ignores the letter. But when he attends Mass presided by St. Ambrose, the bishop refuses to offer the sacrifice until the Emperor revokes his edict.
*c. 389 Death of St. Gregory of Nanzianzus, Doctor of the Church.
*390 St. Ambrose threatens Theodosius with excommunication for massacring 7000 people in Thessalonica as punishment for the murder of an imperial official. Theodosius does public penance.*391 Emperor Theodosius closes all pagan temples in his realm.
*392 Upon the death of Western Emperor Valentinian II, Theodosius becomes the sole ruler of the whole Roman Empire. He forbids all pagan household rites and idols, but does not compel any of his Pagan subjects to become Christian. Paganism will continue to exist, mainly in the backwaters, for the next three centuries.
*c. 392 Death of Apollinaris of Laodicea, heresiarch. In his early years, he was respected for his classical and Scriptural knowledge, on the same level as St. Athanasius, St. Basil and St. Jerome. However, he taught that Christ’s reason was taken over by the Logos. Apollnaris did not reconcile with the Church.
*c. 393 Birth of Theodoret of Cyrus, Church Father, bishop and historian. He opposed St. Cyril of Alexandria in the Nestorian controversy, but he eventually submitted to the Council of Ephesus on the matter.
*397 Death of St. Ambrose of Milan (b. 340), Doctor of the Church.
*399 Election of Pope St. Anastasius (-401). A man of great holiness, he was friends with St. Augustine and St. Jerome. He condemned Origenism.
*397 Death of St. Martin of Tours. He was the first saint honoured for his asceticism, not for martyrdom, and whose prayers were invoked in liturgy. He is considered the founder of monasticism in the West. He was also the first to attempt to convert the pagan countryside of Gaul.
*401 Reign of Pope Innocent I (-417).*405 St. Jerome completes his translation of the Old Testament from the Hebrew.
*405 Emperor Honorius declares Donatists to be heretics and that they should be rooted out.
*407 Death of St. John Chrysostom (b. 347) Church Doctor and Bishop of Constantinople. He died from exposure to the elements during his forced march to Pontus, his place of exile.
*410 The Sack of Rome by the Visigoths, led by Alaric. This event is the inspiration for St. Augustine of Hippo’s monumental work, The City of God.*410 The Donatists are granted toleration by Emperor Honorius.
*c. 411 Beginning of the Pelagian controversy in Northern Africa. Pelagius, an unordained monk, denied the theory of Original Sin, stating that death was a physical necessity, not a result of Original Sin, and that Adam’s fault was transmitted through bad example. He denied the necessity of grace to perform good acts, and affirmed it was possible to lead a life completely free of sin. St. Augustine refuted these beliefs at length.
*411 286 Catholic Bishops and 279 Donatist Bishops meet at a conference in Carthage to discuss reunion. It was presided by an Imperial official. He rules that the Donatists have to submit to the Catholic Church. An imperial edict the following January, 412, confirms this decision and threatens banishment for all who disobey.
*415 After the Jews massacred a group of Chrisitans, St. Cyril of Alexandria organizes a mob to drive out the Jews from Alexandria, as the Prefect of the city, Orestes, sided with the Jews and had condemned a guilty Christian for disturbing the peace.
*417 Election of Pope St. Zosimus (-418).
*418 Election of Pope St. Boniface I (-422).
*418 The Council of Carthage condemns Pelagianism. Emperor Honorius banishes all Pelagians from the cities of Italy. Eighteen bishops, led by Julian of Eclanum, must leave their sees for refusing to sign an orthodox creed, not because it was anti-Pelagian, but because it was based on St. Augustine’s ideas.
*419 The Council of Africa produces the first Code of Canon Law in Church history: the Codex Canonum Ecclesiae Africanae. It forbade appeals overseas in disciplinary matters, including to Rome.
*c. 420 The Semi-Pelagian controversy erupts. Many Pelagians accepted the condemnation of their beliefs at the Council of Carthage (418). In light of that, a more moderate form of Pelagianism, Semi-Pelagianism, arose. It stated that the act of will preceded the grace of salvation. The main proponents of this belief were the monks of Marseilles, including Vincent of Lerins and its main opponents were St. Augustine and his disciple Prosper of Aquitaine. It was condemned at the Second Council of Orange, 529.*422 Pope St. Celestine I begins his pontificate (-432). During his reign, Nestorius, patriarch of Constantinople, professed the heresy of the two-person nature of Christ, known as Nestorianism.
*c. 422 A mob of Christians in Alexandria murder Hypatia, a renowned female pagan philosopher. They tore her to shreds using sharp roof tiling, then burnt her remains. Damascius attributes the murder to St. Cyril of Alexandria’s envy of her reputation; he is, however, a Christian-hater. The Church historian Socrates does not mention any motive on Cyril’s part, but says that it did bring disgrace on the Church of Alexandria. More about the incident here
*426 The Council of Africa formally requests the pope that he not be so ready to hear appeals settled in their jurisdiction or lift excommunications that they have imposed. Rome makes no reply.
*427 Nestorius, heresiarch, is appointed Bishop of Constantinople.
*428 Nestorius campaigns and obtains a new law against heresy. His friend, the monk Anastasius, in attempt to promte Nestorius’ theology, preaches that the title “Mother of God” should only be used with the greatest of care, if at all. This creates a tumult. Nestorius excommunicates those who object to this novel theology. They appeal to the Emperor.
*429 Vandals invade North Africa led by Genseric. They were Arian and very anti-Catholic. Catholic churches are burnt, Catholic meetings are prohibited, and Catholic clergy are exiled and replaced by Arian clergy.
*430 Death of St. Augustine (b. 354), Church Doctor and bishop.*431 Ecumenical Council of Ephesus, presided by St. Cyril of Alexandria in the name of Pope Celestine I. It condemns Nestorianism, the belief that Christ is two persons and declared Mary is the Mother of God (theotokos). It also condemned Pelagianism.
*432 Pope St. Celestine I sends St. Patrick to evangelize Ireland.
*432 Pope St. Sixtus III begins his pontificate (-440).
*c.434 Death of St. Vincent of Lerins, Church Father and Abbot, famous for upholding the universal opinion of the Fathers as the Rule of Faith in disputed matters.
*436 Promulgation of the Theodosian Code, isseud by Theodosius II. It was a systematic presentation of laws in existence. Observance of Sunday, Christmas, Epiphany, Easter and Pentecost enforced.
*440 Election of Pope St. Leo I “The Great” (-461), Doctor of the Church. He vigourously fought many heresies: Manichaenism, Priscillianism, Euctychianism, Monophytism and Nestorianism. He is famous for his encounter with Attilia the Hun, whom he persuaded not to pillage Rome. He also obtained a promise from Genseric, leader of the Vandals, that they would not injure the inhabitants of Rome when they sacked it in 455.*444 Death of St. Cyril of Alexandria (b. 376), Doctor of the Church. He fought the teachings of Nestorius, proclaiming Christ had two natures in one person, and that Mary was thereby the God-bearer (Theotokos) the Mother of God. Unfortunately, he used the phrase ” one incarnate nature of God the Word” to express his orthodox belief. This phrase led to misunderstandings, to the extent that Monophysites claimed he was on their side.
*c. 447 Death of Sozomen, Church Father and historian. He continued the Church history begun by Eusebius in the previous century.
*449 The “Robber Council” of Ephesus. Eutyches, a monk from Constantinople, had been condemned by his bishop, Flavian, for teaching that Christ only had a divine nature. He made an appeal to the emperor to hold a Council, which has been dubbed the “Robber Council” of Ephesus. Pope St. Leo I had written a famous letter for the occasion, the Tome of Leo, in which he explained the Catholic Faith on the subject of the two natures of Christ. His letter is ignored at the Council. Eutyches’ condemnation is made void, while Flavian is deposed and sentenced to prison for his orthodox faith.
|450s||*451 The ecumenical Council of Chalcedon, presided by the Emperor Marcian and the legates of Pope St. Leo I. Over five hundred bishops attend. They approve the Tome of St. Leo as an orthodox statement of faith. It affirms that there is a hypostasis in Christ, a union of the Divine and the Human natures in one person. Bishop Dioscoros of Alexandria is condemned for having protected Eutyches the heretic. The Council also denounces the intervention of the Emperor in religious affairs.*454 At the death of the exiled Monophysite bishop Dioscoros of Alexandria, they elect a successor, Timothy, nicknamed “the Cat” to replace the Catholic bishop who had already been installed. Imperial troops are sent in to restore order and Timothy the Cat is exiled along with other Monophysite bishops.|
*461 Beginning of reign of Pope St. Hilarus (-468).*461 Death of St. Patrick, apostle to the Irish.
*468 St. Simplicius becomes Pope (-483).
|470s||*477 Death of Genseric, King of the Vandals and persecutor of Catholics. His successor, Hunseric, seeks to eliminate Catholicism entirely from Northern Africa. He assembles 466 Catholic bishops and gives them four months to apostatize to Arianism, or else the traditional imperial decrees against heresy would be applied to them. Many trades are closed off to the common people unless they can produce a certificate of Arian conformity.|
*480 Birth of St. Benedict of Nursia (d. 543), founder of Western monasticism and originator of the Benedictine Rule.*483 St. Felix III is elected Pope (-492).
*484 Beginning of Acacian Schism. Pope Felix III excommunicates Patriarch Acacia of Constantinople for signing the Henoticon, a vague document, which contained no heretical statement, but did not condemn Monophytism. It was intended by the Emperor Zeno to be a compromise formula of faith to please both Catholics and Monophysites.
*491 The Armenian Church secedes from the Church of Rome and Constantinople.*492-496 Pope Gelasius I. He was also a staunch defender of the papal office during the Acacian Schism.
*494 Some persecuted bishops of North Africa are recalled from exile.
*496 Pope Anastasius II begins his reign (-498).
*496 Clovis, king of the Franks, converts to Catholicism. When his troops appear to be losing against the Alemanni at Strasbourg, he invokes the God of his Catholic wife Clotilda to give him victory. He is baptized by St. Remi, and brings the Franks to the Catholic fold, the first barbarian people to adopt Catholicism.
*498 Election of Pope St. Symmachus (-514).
*499 The Synod of Rome issues decree on papal elections. It banned discussions on the election of a future pope during a reigning pope’s lifetime. It was an attempt to conspire to make an election truly democratic, and not make the reigning pope choose his successor.
HERE BEGINS THE COUNCIL OF ROME UNDER POPE DAMASUS “ON EXPLAINING THE FAITH”
The Decretum Gelasianum
The so-called Decretum Gelasianum de libris recipiendis et non recipiendis, is traditionally attributed to Gelasius, bishop of Rome 492-496 CE. However, upon the whole it is probably of South Gallic origin (6th century), but several parts can be traced back to Pope Damasus and reflect Roman tradition. The 2nd part is a canon catalogue, and the 5th part is a catalogue of the ‘apocrypha’ and other writings which are to be rejected. The canon catalogue gives all 27 books of the New Testament. Parts 1, 3, and 4 are not relevant to the canon.
Part 2 — A catalogue of the canon.
Likewise it was said:
Now indeed the issue of the divine scriptures must be discussed, which the universal Catholic church receives or which it is required to avoid.
1. THIS IS THE ORDER OF THE OLD TESTAMENT: Genesis one book
Exodus one book
Leviticus one book
Numbers one book
Deuteronomy one book
Joshua one book
Judges one book
Ruth one book
Kings four books
Chronicles two books
150 Psalms one book
Three books of Solomon
proverbs one book
ecclesiastes one book
song of songs one book
The same of Wisdom one book
ecclesiasticus one book
2. LIKEWISE THE ORDER OF THE PROPHETS: Isaiah one book
Jeremiah one book
with Cinoth i.e. his lamentations
Ezechiel one book
Daniel one book
Hosea one book
Amos one book
Micah one book
Joel one book
Obadiah one book
Jonah one book
Nahum one book
Habbakuk one book
Zephaniah one book
Haggai one book
Zechariah one book
Malachi one book
3. LIKEWISE THE ORDER OF THE HISTORIES: Job one book
Tobit one book
Esdras two books
Ester one book
Judith one book
Maccabees two books
4. LIKEWISE THE ORDER OF THE SCRIPTURES OF THE NEW TESTAMENT which the holy and catholic Roman church upholds and is venerated: Four books of the Gospels
according to Mathew one book
according to Mark one book
according to Luke one book
according to John one book
Likewise the acts of the apostles one book
The letters of the apostle Paul in number fourteen
to the Romans one letter
to the Corinthians one letter
to the Ephesians one letter
to the Thesalonians two letters
to the Galatians one letter
to the Philippians one letter
to the Colossians one letter
to Timothy two letters
to Titus one letter
to the Philemon one letter
to the Hebrews one letter
Likewise the apocalypse of John one book
Likewise the canonical letters in number seven
of the apostle Peter two letters
of the apostle James one letter
of the apostle John one letter
of the other John the elder two letters
of the apostle Judas the Zealot one letter
HERE ENDS THE CANON OF THE NEW TESTAMENT.
Part 5 — A catalogue of the ‘apocrypha’ and other writings which are to be rejected.
The remaining writings which have been compiled or been recognized by heretics or schismatics the Catholic and Apostolic Roman Church does not in any way receive; of these we have thought it right to cite below some which have been handed down and which are to be avoided by catholics.
Further Enumeration of Apocryphal Books:
In the first place we confess that the Synod at Ariminum which was convened by the emperor Constantius, the son of Constantine, through the prefect Taurus is damned from then and now and forever.
Itinerary (book of travels) under the name of the apostle Peter,
which is called The Nine Books of the holy Clement apocryphal
Acts under the name of the apostle Andrew apocryphal
Acts under the name of the apostle Thomas apocryphal
Acts under the name of the apostle Peter apocryphal
Acts under the name of the apostle Philip apocryphal
Gospel under the name of Matthias apocryphal
Gospel under the name of Barnabas apocryphal
Gospel under the name of James the younger apocryphal
Gospel under the name of the apostle Peter apocryphal
Gospel under the name of Thomas, which the Manicheans use apocryphal
Gospel under the name of Bartholomaeus apocryphal
Gospel under the name of Andrew apocryphal
Gospel which Lucian has forged apocryphal
Gospel which Hesychius has forged apocryphal
Book about the childhood of the Redeemer apocryphal
Book about the birth of the Redeemer and about Mary or the midwife apocryphal
Book which is called by the name of the Shepherd apocryphal
All books which Leucius, the disciple of the devil, has made apocryphal
Book which is called The Foundation apocryphal
Book which is called The Treasure apocryphal
Book about the daughters of Adam: Leptogenesis(?) apocryphal
Cento about Christ, put together in Virgilian lines apocryphal
Book which is called the Acts of Thecla and of Paul apocryphal
Book which is ascribed to Nepos apocryphal
Book of the Sayings, compiled by heretics and denoted by the name of Sixtus apocryphal
Revelation which is ascribed to Paul apocryphal
Revelation which is ascribed to Thomas apocryphal
Revelation which is ascribed to Stephen apocryphal
Book which is called the Home-going of the Holy Mary apocryphal
Book which is called the Penitence of Adam apocryphal
Book about the giant Ogias,
of whom the heretics assert that after the flood he fought with the dragon apocryphal
Book which is called The Testament of Job apocryphal
Book which is called The Penitence of Origen apocryphal
Book which is called The Penitence of the Holy Cyprian apocryphal
Book which is called The Penitence of Jamnes and Mambres apocryphal
Book which is called The Portion of the Apostles apocryphal
Book which is called The Grave-plate(?) of the Apostles apocryphal
Book which is called the Canones of the Apostles apocryphal
The book Physiologus, compiled by heretics and called by the name of the blessed Ambrose apocryphal
The History of Eusebius Pamphili apocryphal
Works of Tertullian apocryphal
Works of Lactantius (later addition: or of Firmianus or of the African) apocryphal
Works of Postumianus and of Gallus apocryphal
Works of Montanus, of Priscilla and of Maximilla apocryphal
Works of Faustus the Manichean apocryphal
Works of Commodianus apocryphal
Works of the other Clement of Alexandria apocryphal
Works of Thascius Cyprian apocryphal
Works of Arnobius apocryphal
Works of Tichonius apocryphal
Works of Cassian, a presbyter in Gaul apocryphal
Works of Victorinus of Pettau apocryphal
Works of Faustus of Riez in Gaul apocryphal
Works of Frumentius Caecus apocryphal
Epistle of Jesus to Abgar apocryphal
Epistle of Abgar to Jesus apocryphal
Passion (Martyr Acts) of Cyricus and of Iulitta apocryphal
Passion of Georgius apocryphal
Writing which is called Interdiction (Exorcism?) of Solomon apocryphal
All amulets which have been compiled not, as those persons feign,
in the name of the angels, but rather in that of the demons apocryphal
These and the like, what Simon Magus, Nicolaus, Cerinthus, Marcion, Basilides, Ebion, Paul of Samosata, Photinus and Bonosus, who suffered from similar error, also Montanus with his detestable followers, Apollinaris, Valentinus the Manichean, Faustus the African, Sabellius, Arius, Macedonius, Eunomius, Novatus, Sabbatius, Calistu, Donatus, Eustatius, Iovianus, Pelagius, Iulianus of Eclanum, Caelestius, Maximian, Priscillian from Spain, Nestorius of Constantinople, Maximus the Cynic, Lampetius, Dioscorus, Eutyches, Peter and the other Peter, of whom the one besmirched Alexandria and the other Antioch, Acacius of Constantinople with his associates, and what also all disciples of heresy and of the heretics or schismatics, whose names we have scarcely preserved, have taught or compiled, we acknowledge is to be not merely rejected but excluded from the whole Roman Catholic and Apostolic Church and with its authors and the adherents of its authors to damned in the inextricable shackles of anathema for ever.
Does Reason Contradicts Faith? Analysis of Faith and Reason According to St.Thomas Aquinas.
The relation of faith to reason is of utmost importance for the thinking believer. The problem of how to combine these aspects of personhood has existed from the earliest apologists. Justin Martyr, Clement of Alexandria, and Tertullian all struggled. Augustine made the first serious attempt to relate the two, but the most comprehensive treatment came at the end of the medieval period when Christian intellectualism flowered in the work of Thomas Aquinas.
Relation of Faith to Reason.
Aquinas held that faith and reason intertwine. Faith uses reason, and reason cannot succeed in finding truth without faith.
Reason Cannot Produce Faith. Reason accompanies, but does not cause, faith. Faith is consent without inquiry in that faith’s assent is not caused by investigation. Rather, it is produced by God. Commenting on Ephesians 2:8-9, Aquinas contended that “free will is inadequate for the act of faith since the contents of faith are above reason…. That a man should believe, therefore, cannot occur from himself unless God gives it” (Aquinas, Ephesians, 96; unless noted, all citations in this article are from works by Thomas Aquinas). Faith is a gift of God, and no one can believe without it. Nonetheless, “this does not prevent the understanding of one who believes from having some discursive thought of comparison about those things which he believes” (De Veritate, 14.A1.2). Such discursive thought, or reasoning from premises to conclusions, is not the cause of the assent of faith, but it can and should accompany it (De Veritate 14.A1.6).
Faith and reason are parallel. One does not cause the other because “faith involves will (freedom) and reason doesn’t coerce the will” (De Veritate). A person is free to dissent, even though there may be convincing reasons to believe. As a matter of tactical approach in apologetics, if the authority of Scripture is accepted (faith), appeal can be made to it (reason). “Thus, against the Jews we are able to argue by means of the Old Testament, while against heretics we are able to argue by means of the New Testament. But Mohammedans and the pagans accept neither the one nor the other…. We must, therefore, have recourse to the natural reason, to which all men are forced to give their assent” (Summa Theologica, 1a.2.2).
However, some Christian truths are attainable by human reason, for example, that God exists and is one. “Such truths about God have been proved demonstratively by the phi- losophers, guided by the light of the natural reason” (Summa, 1a.3.2)
Three Uses of Reason. Reason or philosophy can be used in three ways, Aquinas says:
1. It demonstrates the “preambles of faith” (that God exists, that we are his creatures…)
2. It analyzes teachings of philosophers in order to reveal corresponding concepts in Christian faith. Aquinas gives the example of Augustine’s On the Trinity, which draws on philosophy to help explain the Trinity.
3. It opposes attacks against faith from logic ( Summa Contra Gentiles, 1.9).
Reason can be used to prove natural theology, which studies the existence and nature of one God. It can be used to illustrate supernatural theological concepts, such as the Trinity and the Incarnation. And it can be used to refute false theologies (De Trinitate, 2.3). The apologist directs the person to accept two kinds of truth about divine things and to destroy what is contrary to truth. The person is directed to the truths of natural theology by the investigation of the reason and to the truths of supernatural theology by faith. So to make the first kind of divine truth known, we must proceed through demonstrative arguments. However,
“since such arguments are not available for the second kind of divine truth, our intention should not be to convince our adversary by arguments: It should be to answer his arguments against the truth; for, as we have shown, the natural reason cannot be contrary to the truth of faith. The sole way to overcome an adversary of divine truth is from the authority of Scripture—an authority divinely confirmed by miracles. For that which is above the human reason we believe only because God has revealed it. Nevertheless, there are certainly likely [probable] arguments that should be brought forth in order to make divine truth known” [ Summa Contra Gentiles, 1.9]
God’s existence is self-evident absolutely (in itself) but not relatively (to us) (Contra Gentiles.1:10- 11). Hence, in the final analysis, one must receive by faith those things that can be known by reason, as well as those things that lie above reason. Intellectual assent that lacks faith cannot have certitude, for human reason is notoriously suspect when it comes to spiritual matters. Consequently, “it was necessary for divine truth to be delivered by way of faith, being told to them as it were, by God Himself Who cannot lie” (Summa Theologica, 2a.2ae. 1, 5.4).
Divine Authority. Aquinas did not believe that reason provides the basis for believing in God. It can prove that God exists, but it cannot convince an unbeliever to believe in God.
Reason Prior to Faith. We may believe (assent without reservation) in something that is neither self-evident nor deduced from it by a movement of the will. However, this does not mean that reason plays no prior role to belief. We judge a revelation to be worthy of belief “on the basis of evident signs or something of the sort” (Summa Theol: 2a 2ae.1, 4. ad 2). Reason inquires about what is to be believed before it believes in it. “Faith does not involve a search by natural reason to prove what is believed. But it does involve a form of inquiry unto things by which a person is led to belief, e.g. whether they are spoken by God and confirmed by miracles” (Summa Theol., 2a 2ae.2, 1, reply). Demons are not willingly convinced by the evidence that God exists but are intellectually forced by confirming signs to the fact that what the faithful believe is true. Yet they cannot truly be said to believe (De Veritate, 14.9. ad 4).
The Testimony of the Spirit. In order to believe in God one must have the inner testimony of the Holy Spirit. For “one who believes does have a sufficient motive for believing, namely the authority of God’s teaching, confirmed by miracles, and—what is greater—the inner inspiration [ instinctus ] of God inviting him to believe” (Summa Theologica, 2a2ae.6.1). The Holy Spirit uses two causes to stimulate voluntary faith. The persuasion may be from with- out, for example, a miracle that is witnessed. Or persuasion may be from within. The first cause is never enough for one inwardly to assent to the things of faith. The assent of faith is caused by God as he moves the believer inwardly through grace. Belief is a matter of the will, but the will needs to be prepared by God “to be lifted up to what surpasses nature” (Summa Theologica., 2a 2ae.2, 9. ad 3).
Reason in Support of Faith. Commenting on the use of reason in 1 Peter 3:15, Aquinas argued that “human reasoning in support of what we believe may stand in a two- fold relation to the will of the believer.” First, the unbeliever may not have the will to believe unless moved by human reason. Second, the person with a will ready to believe loves the truth, thinks it out, and takes to heart its evidence. The first, unbelieving will may come to a faith of sorts, but there will be no merit in it, because belief does not extend far beyond sight. The second person also studies the human reasoning, but it is a meritorious work of faith (Summa Theologica 2a 2ae.2, 10).
Positive Evidence. Faith is supported by, though not based on, probable evidence. “Those who place their faith in this truth, however, ‘for which the human reason offers no experimental evidence,’ do not believe foolishly, as though ‘following artificial fables’” (2 Peter 1:16). Rather, “It reveals its own presence, as well as the truth of its teaching and inspiration, by fitting arguments; and in order to confirm those truths that exceed natural knowledge, it gives visible manifestations to works that surpass the ability of all nature.” The kind of positive evidence that Aquinas used included such things as raising the dead, miracles, and the conversion of the pagan world to Christianity ( De Veritate, 14.A1).
Negative Evidence. The negative evidence encompasses arguments against false religions, including things like their fleshly appeal to carnal pleasures, their teachings that contradict their promises, their many fables and falsities, the lack of miracles to witness to divine inspiration of their holy book (like the Qur’an ) , use of warfare (arms) to spread their message, the fact that wise men did not believe Muhammad, only ignorant, desert wander- ers, the fact that there were no prophets to witness to him, and Muslim perversions of Old and New Testament stories ( Contra Gentiles, 1.6).
Faith and Fallible Testimony. How can we be sure when the support of our faith rests on many intermediary (fallible) testimonies? Aquinas responds that the intermediaries are above suspicion if they were confirmed by miracles (for example, Mark 16:20). “We believe the successors of the apostles and prophets only in so far as they tell us those things which the apostles and prophets have left in their writings” ( De Veritate, 14.10, ad 11). The Bible alone is the final and infallible authority for our faith.
Faith and Demonstrative Arguments. Aquinas distinguished between two kinds of rational arguments:
“Demonstrative, cogent, and intellectually convincing argument cannot lay hold of the truths of faith, though it may neutralize destructive criticism that would render faith untenable.”
“Persuasive reasoning drawn from probabilities… does not weaken the merit of faith, for it implies no attempt to convert faith into sight by resolving what is believed into evident first principles” ( De Trinitate, 2.1, ad 5).
Distinguishing Faith and Reason.
Though faith is not separated from reason, Aquinas does formally distinguish between them. He believed they are related, but the relationship does not coerce a person to believe.
Faith in Relation to Reason.
Human reason does not force faith. If it did, then faith would not be a free act. What happens is that “the mind of the one believing settles upon the one side of a question not in virtue of his reason but in virtue of his will. Therefore assent is understood in the definition [of faith] as an act of the mind in so far as the mind is brought to its decision by the will” (ibid., 2a 2ae. 2, 1, ad 3).
Faith is not unreasonable.
Faith is reason with assent. For “to ponder with assent is,then, distinctive of the believer: this is how his act of belief is set off from all other acts of the mind concerned with the true and the false” (Summa Theologica,2a 2ae.2, 1, reply).Faith, then, is defined as “that habit of mind whereby eternal life begins in us and which brings the mind to assent to things that appear not.” Faith differs from science in that the object of faith is unseen.It also differs from doubt, suspicion and opinion in that there is evidence to support faith.
Faith is a free act. Aquinas quotes Augustine with approval that “Faith is a virtue by which things not seen are believed” (ibid., 2a2ae.4, 1, reply). He declares that …”to believe is an act of mind assenting to the divine truth by virtue of the command of the will as this is moved by God through grace; in this the act stands under control of free will and is directed toward God. The act of faith is, therefore, meritorious. That is, one is rewarded for believing in what he does not see. There is no merit (reward) in believing what can be seen, since there is no faith involved; it can be seen. The scientist [i.e., philosopher] is impelled to assent by force of a conclusive proof. Thus the assent is not meritorious.” [Summa Theologica, 2a 2ae. 2, 9]
Faith is an act of mind and will. Since belief is an act of the intellect under the impetus of the will, it issues from both mind and will, and both are perfectible by action. “If an act of faith is to be completely good, then, habits must necessarily be present in both mind and will” (S:T 2a 2ae. 4, 2, reply). That is, one cannot be saved without a willingness to do something with faith. Saving faith will produce good works.
Meritorious Nature of Faith. Faith is meritorious, not because one has to work for it, but because it involves the will to believe. It “depends on the will according to its very nature (ibid ad 5). “For in science and opinion [probable arguments] there is no inclination because of the will, but only because of reason” (ibid., 14.3, reply). But “no act can be meritorious unless it is voluntary, as has been said” (ibid., 14.5, reply).
Aquinas believed that Hebrews 11:1 is a good definition of faith, for it describes not merely what faith does but what it is.
He saw in it the three essentials
1. It mentions the will and the object that moves the will as principles on which the nature of faith is based.
2. In it we can distinguish faith from those things which appear not, as opposed to science and understanding.
3. The whole definition reduces to the essential phrase, “the substance of things hoped for.” (ibid., 14.2)
The formal difference between faith and reason is that one cannot both know and believe the same thing at the same time. For “Whatever things we know with scientific knowledge properly so called we know by reducing them to first principles which are naturally present to the understanding.”
Faith and Knowledge about the Same Object: Scientific knowledge culminates in sight of the thing believed, so there is no room for faith. One cannot have faith and scientific knowledge about the same thing (ibid., 14.9, reply). The object of true faith is above senses and understanding. “Consequently, the object of faith is that which is absent from our understanding.” As Augustine said, “we believe that which is absent, but we see that which is present” (ibid., 14.9, reply).This does not mean, of course, that everyone will necessarily believe what I can see without faith (Summa Theologica,2a2ae. 1, 5). It does mean that the same person cannot have both faith and proof of the same object. One who sees it, does not believe it by faith on the testimony of others. One who believes it on the testimony of another does not see (know) it personally.
Probable Knowledge and Faith.Likewise, one cannot have “opinion” (probable knowledge) and “science” (certain knowledge) about the same object. As Aquinas notes, “opinion includes a fear that the other part [of the contradiction] is true, and scientific knowledge excludes such fear. However, this fear that the opposite may be true does not apply to matters of faith. For faith brings with it a greater certitude than what can be known by reason” (De Veritate,14.9, ad 6).
Creedal Knowledge and Faith.If the existence of God can be proved by reason, and if what is known by reason cannot also be a matter of faith, then why is belief in God proposed in the Creed? Aquinas responds that not all are capable of demonstrating God’s existence. “We do not say that the proposition. God is one, in so far as it is proved by demonstration, is an article of faith, but something presupposed before the articles. For the knowledge of faith presupposes natural knowledge, just as grace presupposes nature”(ibid., 14.9, ad 8).
Perfected, by Love, Produced by Grace. Reason can go only so far. Faith goes beyond reason and completes it. “Faith does not destroy reason, but goes beyond it andperfects it” (ibid., 14.10, reply, ad 7). “Love is the perfection of faith. Since charity is a perfection of the will, faith is formed by charity” (ibid., ad 1). “It is called form in so far as faith acquires some perfection from charity” (ibid., ad 7). But “the act of faith which precedes charity is an imperfect act awaiting completion from charity” (ibid., 14.A5, reply). So love perfects faith. Since believing depends on the understanding and the will, “such an act cannot be perfect unless the will is made perfect by charity and the understanding by faith.Thus formless faith cannot be a virtue” (ibid., ad 1).
However, “that which faith receives from charity is accidental to faith in its natural constitution, but essential to it with reference to its morality” (ibid., 14.6, reply).Not only is love necessary to perfect faith, but grace is necessary to produce it. “Now,grace is the first [that is, remote] perfection of the virtues, but charity is their proximate perfection” (ibid., 14.A5, ad 6).
The Limitations of Reason.
Aquinas did not believe that human reason was without limitations. In fact he offered many arguments as to why reason is insufficient and revelation is needed.
Five Reasons for Revelation. Following Jewish philosopher Moses Maimonides, Aquinas set forth five reasons why we must first believe what we may later be able to provide good evidence for (Maimonides, 1.34):
1. The object of spiritual understanding is deep and subtle, far removed from sense perception
2. Human understanding is weak as it fights through these issues.
3. A number of things are needed for conclusive spiritual proof. It takes time to discern them.
4. Some people are disinclined to rigorous philosophical investigation.
5. It is necessary to engage in other occupations besides philosophy and science to provide the necessities of life (De Veritate 14.10, reply).
Aquinas said it is clear that, “if it were necessary to use a strict demonstration as the only way to reach a knowledge of the things which we must know about God, very few could ever construct such a demonstration and even these could do it only after a long time.” Elsewhere, Aquinas lists only three basic reasons divine revelation is needed.
1. Few possess the knowledge of God, some do not have the disposition for philosophical study, and others do not have the time or are indolent.
2. Time is required to find the truth. This truth is very profound, and there are many things that must be presupposed. During youth the soul is distracted by “the various movements of the passions.”
3. It is difficult to sort out what is false in the intellect. Our judgment is weak in sorting true from false concepts. Even in demonstrated propositions there is a mingling of false.“That is why it was necessary that the unshakable certitude and pure truth concerning divine things should be presented to men by way of faith” ( Summa Contra Gentiles, 1.4, 2-5).
The Noetic Effects of Sin.
Clearly, the mind falls far short when it comes to the things of God. As examples of weakness Aquinas looked at the philosophers and their errors and contradictions. “To the end, therefore, that a knowledge of God, undoubted and secure, might be present among men, it was necessary that divine things be taught by way of faith, spoken as it were by the Word of God who cannot lie” (Summa Theologica., 2a 2ae. 2, 4). For “the searching of natural reason does not fill mankind’s need to know even those divine realities which reason could prove” (ibid., 2a 2ae.2, 4, reply).As a result of the noetic effects of sin, grace is needed. Aquinas concluded that “If for something to be in our power means that we can do it without the help of grace, then we are bound to many things that are not within our power without healing grace—for example to love God or neighbor.” The same is true of belief. But with the help of grace we do have this power (ibid., 2a 2ae.2, 6, ad 1).
However, Aquinas did not believe that sin destroyed human rational ability. “Sin cannot destroy man’s rationality altogether, for then he would no longer be capable of sin” (ibid.,1a2ae.85, 2).
Things above Reason.
Not only is faith necessary because of human depravity, but also because some things simply go beyond the power of reason. That does not mean they are contrary to reason, but that they are not fully comprehensible. “Faith, however, is said to surpass reason, not because there is no act of reason in faith, but because reasoning about faith cannot lead to the sight of those things which are matters of faith” (ibid., 14.A2 ad 9). If one could base faith fully on reason, faith would not be a free act; it would be consent caused by the mind.
At two levels a matter of faith may be “above reason.” At its highest level it can be above reason absolutely—if it exceeds the intellectual capacity of the human mind (e.g., the Trinity). It is impossible to have scientific knowledge of this. Believers assent to it only on the testimony of God.” Or, it may not absolutely exceed the intellect capacity of all, but is exceedingly difficult to comprehend, and is above the intellectual capacity of some (for example, that God exists without body). “These we may have scientific proofs of and, if not,we may believe them” (De Veritate14.9, reply).
We must have faith when the light of grace is stronger than the light of nature. For “although the divinely infused light is more powerful than natural light, in our present state we do not share it perfectly, but imperfectly.” Therefore, “because of this defective participation,through that infused light itself we are not brought to the vision of those things for the knowledge of which it was given us. But we will have it in heaven when we share that light perfectly and in the light of God we will see light” (Summa Contra Gentiles,14.8, ad 2).Faith, then, surpasses reason. For “some truths about God exceed all the ability of the human reason. Such is the truth that God is triune” (ibid., 1.3). The ineffable essence of God cannot be known by human reason. The reason for this is that the mind depends on the senses. “Now, sensible things cannot lead the human intellect to the point of seeing in them the nature of the divine substance; for sensible things are effects that fall short of the power of their cause” (ibid., 1.3,3).
Just because we have no reasons for things that go beyond reason does not mean they are not rational. Every belief that is not self-evident can be defended as necessary. We may not know the argument, but it exists. It at least is known to God “and to the blessed who have vision and not faith about these things” (De Trinitate,1.1.4;14.9, ad 1).While human reason cannot attain to the things of faith, it is the preface to them. While “philosophical truths cannot be opposed to truths of faith, they fall short indeed, yet they also admit common analogies; and some moreover are foreshadowing, for nature is the preface of grace” (De Trinitate,2.3).
“Although the truth of the Christian faith which we have discussed surpasses the capacity of the reason, nevertheless that truth that the human reason is naturally endowed to know cannot be opposed to the truth of the Christian faith” (Summa Contra Gentiles,1.7, )
Aquinas’s view of the relation of faith and reason blends positive elements of presuppositionalism and evidentialism, of rationalism and fideism. Aquinas stresses the need for reason before, during, and after beliefs are acquired. Even the mysteries of faith are not irrational.
On the other hand, Aquinas does not believe that reason alone can bring anyone to faith. Salvation is accomplished only by the grace of God. Faith can never be based on reason. At best it can only be supported by reason. Thus, reason and evidence never coerce faith. There is always room for unbelievers not to believe in God, even though a believer can construct a valid proof that God exists. Reason can be used to demonstrate that God exists, but it can never in itself persuade someone to believe in God. Only God can do this, working in and through their free choice.
These distinctions of Aquinas are eminently relevant to the discussion between rationalists and fideists or between evidentialists and presuppositionalists. With regard to belief that God exists, Aquinas sides with the rationalists and evidentialists. But with respect to belief in God, he agrees with fideists and presuppositionalists.
The science of textual criticism is a field of inquiry that has been invaluable to ascertaining the original state of the New Testament text. Textual criticism involves “the ascertainment of the true form of a literary work, as originally composed and written down by its author”. The fact that the original autographs of the New Testament do not exist , and that only copies of copies of copies of the original documents have survived, has led some falsely to conclude that the original reading of the New Testament documents cannot be determined. For example, Mormons frequently attempt to establish the superiority of the Book of Mormon over the Bible by insisting that the Bible has been corrupted through the centuries in the process of translation (a contention shared with Islam in its attempt to explain the Bible’s frequent contradiction of the Quran). However, a venture into the fascinating world of textual criticism dispels this premature and uninformed conclusion.
The task of textual critics, those who study the extant manuscript evidence that attests to the text of the New Testament, is to examine textual variants (i.e., divergencies among the manuscripts) in an effort to reconstruct the original reading of the text. They work with a large body of manuscript evidence, the amount of which is far greater than that available for any ancient classical author [NOTE: The present number of Greek manuscripts—whole and partial—that attest to the New Testament stands at an unprecedented 5,748 .
In one sense, their work has been unnecessary, since the vast majority of textual variants involve minor matters that do not affect doctrine as it relates to one’s salvation. Even those variants that might be deemed doctrinally significant pertain to matters that are treated elsewhere in the Bible where the question of genuineness is unobscured. No feature of Christian doctrine is at stake. Variant readings in existing manuscripts do not alter any basic teaching of the New Testament. Nevertheless, textual critics have been successful in demonstrating that currently circulating New Testaments do not differ substantially from the original. When all of the textual evidence is considered, the vast majority of discordant readings have been resolved. One is brought to the firm conviction that we have in our possession the New Testament as God intended.
The world’s foremost textual critics have confirmed this conclusion. Sir Frederic Kenyon, longtime director and principal librarian at the British Museum, whose scholarship and expertise to make pronouncements on textual criticism was second to none, stated: “Both the authenticity and the general integrity of the books of the New Testament may be regarded as finally established” (Kenyon, 1940, p. 288). The late F.F. Bruce, longtime Rylands Professor of Biblical Criticism at the University of Manchester, England, remarked: “The variant readings about which any doubt remains among textual critics of the New Testament affect no material question of historic fact or of Christian faith and practice” (1960, pp. 19-20). J.W. McGarvey, declared by the London Times to be “the ripest Bible scholar on earth” (Phillips, 1975, p. 184; Brigance, 1870, p. 4), conjoined: “All the authority and value possessed by these books when they were first written belong to them still”. And the eminent textual critics Westcott and Hort put the entire matter into perspective when they said:
Since textual criticism has various readings for its subject, and the discrimination of genuine readings from corruptions for its aim, discussions on textual criticism almost inevitably obscure the simple fact that variations are but secondary incidents of a fundamentally single and identical text. In the New Testament in particular it is difficult to escape an exaggerated impression as to the proportion which the words subject to variation bear to the whole text, and also, in most cases, as to their intrinsic importance. It is not superfluous therefore to state explicitly that the great bulk of the words of the New Testament stand out above all discriminative processes of criticism, because they are free from variation, and need only to be transcribed.
Writing in the late nineteenth century, and noting that the experience of two centuries of investigation and discussion had been achieved, these scholars concluded: “The words in our opinion still subject to doubt can hardly amount to more than a thousandth part of the whole of the New Testament”
THE AUTHENTICITY OF MARK 16:9-20
One textual variant that has received considerable attention from the textual critic concerns the last twelve verses of Mark. Much has been written on the subject in the last two centuries or so. Most, if not all, scholars who have examined the subject concede that the truths presented in the verses are historically authentic—even if they reject the genuineness of the verses as being originally part of Mark’s account. The verses contain no teaching of significance that is not taught elsewhere. Christ’s post-resurrection appearance to Mary is verified elsewhere (Luke 8:2; John 20:1-18), as is His appearance to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:35), and His appearance to the eleven apostles (Luke 24:36-43; John 20:19-23). The “Great Commission” is presented by two of the other three gospel writers (Matthew 28:18-20; Luke 24:46-48), and Luke verifies the ascension twice (Luke 24:51; Acts 1:9). The promise of the signs that were to accompany the apostles’ activities is hinted at by Matthew (28:20), noted by the Hebrews writer (2:3-4), explained in greater detail by John (chapters 14-16; cf. 14:12), and demonstrated by the events of the book of Acts ( McGarvey).
Those who reject the originality of the passage in Mark, while acknowledging the authenticity of the events reported, generally assign a very early date for the origin of the verses. For example, writing in 1844, Alford, who forthrightly rejected the genuineness of the passage, nevertheless conceded: “The inference therefore seems to me to be, that it is an authentic fragment, placed as a completion of the Gospel in very early times: by whom written, must of course remain wholly uncertain; but coming to us with very weighty sanction, and having strong claims on our reception and reverence”. Attributing the verses to a disciple of Jesus named Aristion, Sir Frederic Kenyon nevertheless believed that “we can accept the passage as true and authentic narrative, though not an original portion of St. Mark’s Gospel”. More recently, textual scholars of no less stature than Kurt and Barbara Aland, though also rejecting the originality of the block of twelve verses in question, nevertheless admit that the longer ending “was recognized as canonical” and that it “may well be from the beginning of the second century” (Aland and Aland). This admission is remarkable since it lends further weight to the recognized antiquity of the verses—what New Testament textual critic Bruce Metzger, professor Emeritus of New Testament Language and Literature at Princeton Theological Seminary, referred to as “the evident antiquity of the longer ending and its importance in the textual tradition of the Gospel” placing them in such close proximity to the original writing of Mark so as to make the gap between them virtually indistinguishable.
THE GENUINENESS OF MARK 16:9-20: THE TEXTUAL EVIDENCE
In light of these preliminary observations regarding authenticity, what may be said regarding the genuineness of the last twelve verses of the book of Mark? In arriving at their conclusions, textual critics evaluate the evidence for and against a reading in terms of two broad categories: external evidence and internal evidence. External evidence consists of the date, geographical distribution, and genealogical interrelationship of manuscript copies that contain or omit the passage in question. Internal evidence involves both transcriptional and intrinsic probabilities. Transcriptional probabilities include such principles as
1) generally the shorter reading is more likely to be the original,
(2) the more difficult (to the scribe) reading is to be preferred,
(3) the reading that stands in verbal dissidence with the other is preferable.
Intrinsic probabilities pertain to what the original author was more likely to have written, based on his writing style, vocabulary, immediate context, and his usage elsewhere.
Four Textual Possibilities
According to Metzger, the extant manuscript evidence contains essentially four different endings for the book of Mark:
(1) the omission of 16:9-20;
(2) the inclusion of 16:9-20;
(3) the inclusion of 16:9-20 with the insertion of an additional statement between verse 8 and verse 9 that reads: “But they reported briefly to Peter and those with him all that they had been told. And after this Jesus himself sent out by means of them, from east to west, the sacred and imperishable proclamation of eternal salvation”;
(4) the inclusion of 16:9-20 with the insertion of an additional statement between verses 14 and 15 which reads:
And they excused themselves, saying, “This age of lawlessness and unbelief is under Satan, who does not allow the truth and power of God to prevail over the unclean things of the spirits [or, does not allow what lies under the unclean spirits to understand the truth and power of God]. Therefore reveal thy righteousness now”—thus they spoke to Christ. And Christ replied to them, “The term of years of Satan’s power has been fulfilled, but other terrible things draw near. And for those who have sinned I was delivered over to death, that they may return to the truth and sin no more, in order that they may inherit the spiritual and incorruptible glory of righteousness which is in heaven.”
The fourth reading of the text may be eliminated as spurious. Meager external evidence exists to support it, i.e., only one Greek manuscript—Codex Washingtonianus. As Jack Lewis noted: “The support for the shorter ending is so inferior that no scholar would champion that Mark wrote this ending”. It bears what Metzger called “an unmistakable apocryphal flavor”. The statement does not match the style and grandeur of the rest of the section, leaving the general impression of having been fabricated. This latter point applies equally to the third ending since it, too, possesses a rhetorical tone that contrasts—even clashes—with Mark’s simple style.
The third ending represents a classic case of conflation—incorporating both verses 9-20 as well as the shorter ending—and may also be eliminated from consideration. In addition to internal evidence, the external evidence is insufficient to establish its genuineness. It is supported by four uncials that date from the seventh, eighth, and ninth centuries, one Old Latin manuscript (which omits verses 9-20), a marginal notation in the Harclean Syriac, several Coptic (Sahidic and Bohairic) manuscripts and several late Ethiopic manuscripts. Besides being discredited for conflation, the third ending lacks sufficient internal and external evidence to establish its genuineness as having been originally written by Mark.
Ultimately, therefore, the question is reduced simply to whether verses 9-20 are to be included or excluded as genuine. Over the last century and a half, scholars have come down on both sides of the issue. Those who have questioned the genuineness of the verses have included F.J.A. Hort, B.H. Streeter, J.K. Elliott, and Bruce Metzger . On the other hand, those who have insisted that Mark wrote the verses have included John W. Burgon, F.H.A. Scrivener, George Salmon, James Morison, Samuel Zwemer, and R.C.H. Lenski.
The reading of the text that omits verses 9-20 altogether does, indeed, possess some respectable support. The weightiest external evidence is the omission of the verses by the formidable Greek uncials, the Sinaiticus and Vaticanus, which date from the fourth century. These two manuscripts carry great persuasive weight with most textual scholars, resulting in marginal notations in many English translations. For example, the American Standard Version footnote to the verse reads: “The two oldest Greek manuscripts, and some other authorities, omit from verse 9 to the end. Some other authorities have a different ending to the Gospel.” The New International Version gives the following footnote: “The two most reliable early manuscripts do not have Mark 16:9-20.” Such marginal notations, however, fail to convey to the reader the larger picture that the external evidence provides, including additional Greek manuscript evidence, to say nothing of the ancient versions and patristic citations.
Additional evidence for omission includes the absence of the verses from various versions:
(1) the Sinaitic Syriac manuscript,
(2) about one hundred Armenian manuscripts,
(3) the two oldest Georgian manuscripts that are dated A.D. 897 and 913.
Among the patristic writers (i.e., the so-called “Church Fathers”), neither Clement of Alexandria (A.D. 215) nor Origen (A.D. 254) shows any knowledge of the existence of the verses. [Of course, simply showing no knowledge is no proof for omission. If we were to discount as genuine every New Testament verse that a particular patristic writer failed to reference, we would eventually dismiss the entire New Testament as spurious. Though virtually the entire New Testament is quoted or alluded to by the corpus of patristic writers—no one writer refers to every verse.
Eusebius of Caesarea (A.D. 339), as well as Jerome (A.D. 420), are said to have indicated the absence of the verses from almost all Greek manuscripts known to them. However, it should be noted that the statement made by Eusebius occurs in a context in which he was offering two possible solutions to an alleged contradiction (between Matthew 28:1 and Mark 16:9) posed by a Marinus. One of the solutions would be to dismiss Mark’s words on the grounds that it is not contained in all texts. But Eusebius does not claim to share this solution. The second solution he offers entails retaining Mark 16:9 as genuine. The fact that he couches the first solution in the third person (i.e., “This, then, is what a person will say...”), and then proceeds to offer a second solution, when he could have simply dismissed the alleged contradiction on the grounds that manuscript evidence was decisively against the genuineness of the verses, argues for Eusebius’ own approval. The mere fact that the alleged contradiction was raised in the first place demonstrates recognition of the existence of the verses.
Jerome’s alleged opposition to the verses is even more tenuous. He merely translated the same interchange between Eusebius and Marinus from Greek into Latin, recasting it as a response to the same question that he placed in the mouth of a Hedibia from Gaul . He most certainly was not giving his own opinion regarding the genuineness of Mark 16:9-20, since that opinion is made apparent by the fact that Jerome included the verses in his landmark revision of the Old Latin translations, the Vulgate, while excluding others that lacked sufficient manuscript verification. Jerome’s own opinion is further evident from the fact that he quoted approvingly from the section.
Further evidence for omission of the verses is claimed from the Eusebian Canons, produced by Ammonius, which allegedly originally made no provision for numbering sections of the text after verse 8. Yet, again, on closer examination, of 151 Greek Evangelia codices, 114 sectionalize (and thus make allowance for) the last twelve verses.
In addition to these items of evidence that support omission of verses 9-20, several manuscripts that actually do contain them, nevertheless have scribal notations questioning their originality. Some of the manuscripts have markings—asterisks or obeli—that ordinarily signal the scribe’s suspicion of the presence of a spurious addition. However, even here, such markings (e.g., tl, tel, or telos) can be misconstrued to mean the end of the book, whereas the copyist merely intended to indicate the end of a liturgical section of the lectionary. Metzger agrees that such ecclesiastical lection signs constitute “a clear implication that the manuscript originally continued with additional material from Mark”.
The internal evidence that calls verses 9-20 into question resolves itself into essentially two central contentions: (1) the vocabulary and style of the verses are deemed non-Markan, and (2) the connection between verse 8 and verses 9-20 seems awkward and gives the surface appearance of having been added by someone other than Mark. These two contentions will be treated momentarily.
Standing in contrast with the evidence for omission is the external and internal evidence for the inclusion of verses 9-20. The verses are, in fact, present in the vast number of witnesses . This point alone is insufficient to demonstrate the genuineness of a passage, since manuscripts may perpetuate an erroneous reading that crept into the text and then happened to survive in greater numbers than those manuscripts that preserved the original reading. Nevertheless, the sheer magnitude of the witnesses that support verses 9-20 cannot be summarily dismissed out of hand. Though rejecting the genuineness of the verses, the Alands offer the following concession that ought to give one pause: “It is true that the longer ending of Mark 16:9-20 is found in 99 percent of the Greek manuscripts as well as the rest of the tradition, enjoying over a period of centuries practically an official ecclesiastical sanction as a genuine part of the gospel of Mark” . Such longstanding and widespread acceptance cannot be treated lightly nor dismissed easily. It is, at least, possible that the prevalence of manuscript support for the verses is due to their genuineness.
The Greek manuscript evidence that verifies the verses is distinguished, not just in quantity, but also in complexion and diversity. It includes a host of uncials and minuscules. The uncials include Codex Alexandrinus (02) and Ephraemi Rescriptus (04) from the fifth century. [NOTE: Technically, the Washington manuscript may be combined with these two manuscripts as additional fifth-century evidence for inclusion of the verses, since it simply inserts an additional statement in between verses 14 and 15.] Additional support for the verses comes from Bezae Cantabrigiensis (05) from the sixth century (or, according to the Alands, the fifth century—1987, p. 107), as well as 017, 033, 037, 038, and 041 from the ninth and tenth centuries. The minuscule manuscript evidence consists of the “Family 13” collection, entailing no fewer than ten manuscripts, as well as numerous other minuscules. The passage is likewise found in several lectionaries.
The patristic writings that indicate acceptance of the verses as genuine are remarkably extensive. From the second century, Irenaeus, who died c. A.D. 202, alludes to the verses in both Greek and Latin. His precise words in his Against Heresies were: “Also, towards the conclusion of his Gospel, Mark says: ‘So then, after the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, He was received up into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of God” (3.10.5; Roberts and Donaldson, 1973, 1:426). It is very likely that Justin Martyr was aware of the verses in the middle of the second century. At any rate, his disciple, Tatian, included the verses in his Greek Diatessaron (having come down to us in Arabic, Italian, and Old Dutch editions) c. A.D. 170.
Third century witnesses include Tertullian, who died after A.D. 220, in his On the Resurrection of the Flesh (ch. 51; Roberts and Donaldson, 1973, 3:584), Against Praxeas (ch. 30; Roberts and Donaldson, 3:627), and A Treatise on the Soul (ch. 25; Roberts and Donaldson, 3:206). Cyprian, who died A.D. 258, alluded to verses 17-18 in his The Seventh Council of Carthage (Roberts and Donaldson, 1971, 5:569). Additional third century verification is seen in the apocryphal Gospel of Nicodemus. Verses 15-18 in Greek and verses 15-19 in Latin are quoted in Part I: The Acts of Pilate (ch. 14), and verse 16 in its Greek form is quoted in Part II: The Descent of Christ into Hell (ch. 2) (Roberts and Donaldson, 1970, 8:422,436,444-445). De Rebaptismate (A.D. 258) is also a witness to the verses. All seven of these second and third century witnesses precede the earliest existing Greek manuscripts that verify the genuineness of the verses. More to the point, they predate both Vaticanus and Sinaiticus.
Fourth century witnesses to the existence of the verses include Aphraates (writing in A.D. 337—see Schaff and Wace, 1969, 13:153), with his citation of Mark 16:16-18 in “Of Faith” in his Demonstrations (1.17; Schaff and Wace, 13:351), in addition to the Apostolic Constitutions (5.3.14; 6.3.15; 8.1.1)—written no later than A.D. 380 (Roberts and Donaldson, 1970, 7:445,457,479). Ambrose, who died A.D. 397, quoted from the section in his On the Holy Spirit (2.13.145,151), On the Christian Faith (1.14.86 and 3.4.31), and Concerning Repentance (1.8.35; Schaff and Wace, 10:133,134,216,247,335). Didymus, who died A.D. 398, is also a witness to the genuineness of the verses (Aland, et al., 1983, p. 189), as is perhaps Asterius after 341.
Patristic writers from the fifth century that authenticate the verses include Jerome, noted above, who died A.D. 420, Leo (who died ! 461) in his Letters (9.2 and 120.2; Schaff and Wace, 1969, 12:8,88), and Chrysostom (who died A.D. 407) in his Homilies on First Corinthians (38.5; Schaff, 1969, 12:229). Additional witnesses include Severian (after 408), Marcus-Eremita (after 430), Nestorius (after 451), and Augustine (after 455). These witnesses to the genuineness of Mark 16:9-20 from patristic writers is exceptional.
The evidence for inclusion that comes from the ancient versions is also diverse and weighty—entailing a wide spectrum of versions and geographical locations. Several Old Latin/Itala manuscripts contain it. Though Jerome repeated the view that the verses were absent in some Greek manuscripts—a circumstance used by those who support exclusion—he actually included them in his fourth century Latin Vulgate (and, as noted above, quoted verse 14 in his own writings). The verses are found in the Old Syriac (Curetonian) as well as the Peshitta and later Syriac (Palestinian and Harclean). The Coptic versions that have it are the Sahidic, Bohairic, and Fayyumic, ranging from the third to the sixth centuries. The Gothic version (fourth century) has verses 9-11. The verses are also found in the Armenian, Georgian, and Old Church Slavonic versions.
What must the unbiased observer conclude from these details? All told, the cumulative external evidence that documents the genuineness of verses 9-20, from Greek manuscripts, patristic citations, and ancient versions, is expansive, ancient, diversified, and unsurpassed.
Reconciling the Evidence
How may the conflicting evidence for and against inclusion of the verses be reconciled? In the final analysis, according to those who favor omission of the verses, the two strongest, most persuasive pieces of evidence for their position are (1) the external evidence of the exclusion of the verses from the prestigious Vaticanus and Sinaiticus manuscripts, and (2) the internal evidence of the presence of multiple non-Markan words. The fact is that the presumed strength of these two factors has led many scholars to minimize the array of evidence that otherwise would be seen to support the verses—evidence that, as shown above, is vast and diversified in geographical distribution and age. If these two factors are demonstrated by definitive rebuttal to be inadequate, the evidence for inclusion will then be recognized as manifestly superior to that which is believed to support exclusion. What, then, may be said concerning the two strongest pieces of evidence that have led many scholars to exclude Mark 16:9-20 as genuine?
Vaticanus and Sinaiticus
Regarding the first factor, it is surely significant that though Vaticanus and Sinaiticus omit the passage, Alexandrinus includes it. Alexandrinus rivals Vaticanus and Sinaiticus in both accuracy and age—removed probably by no more than fifty years. Why should the reading of two of the “Big Three” uncial manuscripts take precedence over the reading of the third? Are proponents staking their case in this regard on mere numerical superiority, i.e., two against one? Surely not, given the fact that the same scholars would insist that original readings are not to be decided by counting numbers of manuscripts. If sheer numbers of manuscripts decide genuineness, then Mark 16:9-20 must be accepted as genuine. Vaticanus and Sinaiticus should carry no more weight over Alexandrinus than that assigned by critics to the manuscripts that support inclusion on account of their superior numbers.
Vaticanus is technically, at best, a half-hearted witness to the omission of the verses. Though he considered the verses as spurious, Alford nevertheless offered an observation that ought to give one pause: “After the subscription in B [Vaticanus—DM] the remaining greater portion of the column and the whole of the next to the end of the page are left vacant. There is no other instance of this in the whole N.T. portion of the MS [manuscript—DM], the next book in every other instance beginning on the next column” (p. 484, emp. added). This unusual divergence from the scribe’s usual practice suggests that he knew that additional verses were missing. The blank space he left provides ample room for the additional twelve verses.
Interestingly, some have questioned the judgment of the scribe of Sinaiticus in his omission of Mark 16:9-20 on the grounds that he included the apocryphal books of the Shepherd of Hermas and the Epistle of Barnabas (Aland and Aland,). Likewise, the scribe of Vaticanus included several of the Apocrypha in the Old Testament, as Sir Frederic Kenyon observed, “being inserted among the canonical books in B [Vaticanus—DM] without distinction”.
Those who support exclusion of Mark 16:9-20 have not been forthright in divulging that, as a matter of fact, Vaticanus and Sinaiticus frequently diverge from each other, with one or the other siding with Alexandrinus against the other. For example, the allusions by Luke to an angel strengthening Jesus in the Garden and the “great drops of blood” (Luke 22:43-44) are omitted by Vaticanus, while both Alexandrinus and Sinaiticus (the original hand) contain these verses. Luke’s report of Jesus’ statement on the cross (“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do”—Luke 23:34), is included by Alexandrinus and Sinaiticus (the original hand), but omitted by Vaticanus (p. 180). On the other hand, Vaticanus sides with Alexandrinus against Sinaiticus in their inclusion of the blind man’s confession and worship of Jesus (“‘Lord, I believe!’ And he worshipped Him”) in John 9:38 . It is also the case that both Vaticanus and Sinaiticus are sometimes separately defective in their handling of a reading. For example, in John 2:3, instead of reading “they ran out of wine,” the original hand of Sinaiticus reads, “They had no wine, because the wine of the wedding feast had been used up”—a reading that occurs only in Sinaiticus and in no other Greek manuscript. Many other instances of dissimilarities and dissonance between Vaticanus and Sinaiticus could be cited that weaken the premature assessment of the strength of their combined witness against Mark 16:9-20. [Cf. Luke 10:41-42; 11:14; Acts 2:43,44; Romans 4:1; 5:2,17; 1 Corinthians 12:9; 1 John 4:19.] Further, in some cases the UBS committee rejected as spurious the readings of both Vaticanus and Sinaiticus, and instead accepted the reading of Alexandrinus (e.g., Romans 8:2—“me” vs. “you”; Romans 8:35—“the love of Christ” vs. “the love of God” [Sinaiticus] or “the love of God in Christ Jesus” [Vaticanus]).
Summary of External Evidence
The following chart provides a visual summary of the external evidence for and against inclusion of Mark 16:9-20 for the first six centuries—since thereafter the manuscript evidence in favor of the verses increases even further (adapted and enhanced from Warren, 1953, p. 104). Observe that when one examines all three sources from which the text of the New Testament may be ascertained, the external evidence for the genuineness of the verses is considerable and convincing.
The second most persuasive piece of evidence that prompts some to discount Mark 16:9-20 as genuine is the internal evidence. Though the Alands conceded that the “longer Marcan ending” actually “reads an absolutely convincing text” , in fact, the internal evidence weighs more heavily than the external evidence in the minds of many of those who support omission of the verses. Observe carefully the following definitive pronouncement of this viewpoint—a pronouncement that simultaneously concedes the strength of the external evidence in favor of the verses:
On the other hand, the section is no casual or unauthorised [sic] addition to the Gospel. From the second century onwards, in nearly all manuscripts, versions, and other authorities, it forms an integral part of the Gospel, and it can be shown to have existed, if not in the apostolic, at least in the sub-apostolic age. A certain amount of evidence against it there is (though very little can be shown to be independent of Eusebius the Church historian, 265-340 A.D.), but certainly not enough to justify its rejection, were it not that internal evidence clearly demonstrates that it cannot have proceeded from the hand of St. Mark.
Listen also to an otherwise conservative scholar express the same sentiment: “If these deductions are correct the mass of MSS [manuscripts—DM] containing the longer ending must have been due to the acceptance of this ending as the most preferable. But internal evidence combines with textual evidence to raise suspicions regarding this ending” (Guthrie). Alford took the same position: “The internal evidence…will be found to preponderate vastly against the authorship of Mark” . Even Bruce Metzger admitted: “The long ending, though present in a variety of witnesses, some of them ancient, must also be judged by internal evidence to be secondary”.In fact, to Metzger, while the external evidence against the verses is merely “good,” the internal evidence against them is “strong”.
So, in the minds of not a few scholars, if it were not for the internal evidence, the external evidence would be sufficient to establish the genuineness of the verses. What precisely, pray tell, is this internal evidence that is so powerful and weighs so heavily on the issue as to prod scholars to “jump through hoops” in an effort to discredit the verses? What formidable data exists that could possibly prompt so many to discount all evidence to the contrary? Let us see.
Textual scholar Bruce Metzger summarized the internal evidence against the verses in terms of two factors:
(1) the vocabulary and style of verses 9-20 are deemed non-Markan,
(2) the connection between verse 8 and verses 9-20 is awkward, appearing to have been “added by someone who knew a form of Mark that ended abruptly with verse 8 and who wished to supply a more appropriate conclusion”.
The Connection Between Verse 8 and Verses 9-20
Concerning the latter point, one must admit that the evaluation is highly subjective and actually nothing more than a matter of opinion. How is one to decide that a piece of writing is “awkward” or “likely” to have been added by someone other than Mark? Tangible objective criteria must be brought forward to support such a contention if its credibility is to be substantiated. As support for the contention, Metzger notes
(1) that the subject of verse 8 is the women, whereas Jesus is the subject in verse 9,
(2) that Mary Magdalene is identified in verse 9 even though she has been mentioned only a few lines before in 15:47 and 16:1,
(3) the other women mentioned in verses 1-8 are now forgotten,
(4) the use of anastas de and the position of proton in verse 9 are appropriate at the beginning of a comprehensive narrative, but are ill-suited in a continuation of verses 1-8 .
Let us examine briefly each of these four contentions.
regarding the first point, a simple reading of the verses does not demonstrate a shift in subject from the women to Jesus. In actuality, the subject has been Jesus all along, but more specifically, His resurrection appearances. After pausing to relate specific details of the tomb incident involving three women (vss. 2-8), the writer returns in verse 9 to the subject introduced in verse 1—an enumeration of additional resurrection appearances, reiterating Mary Magdalene’s name for the reason that He appeared to her “first.”
Second, much is made of Mary Magdalene being identified in verse 9 though she had been identified already in 15:47 and 16:1. But if her name could be reiterated in 16:1—one verse after 15:47—why could it not be given again eight verses later? Has it escaped the critics’ notice that her name is also mentioned in full in 15:40—a mere seven verses before being mentioned again in 15:47? Yet, not one critic questions the genuineness of 15:47 or 16:1 though they redundantly identify Mary Magdalene again! The fact that there is more than one Mary in the text is sufficient to account for the repetition.
Third, it is also true that beginning in verse 9, the other women are not mentioned again. But, again, the reason for this omission is contextually obvious. Mary Magdalene is the one who spread the word about the resurrection to the others—“those who had been with Him” (vs. 10). It makes perfect sense that the focus would be narrowed from the three women to the one who performed this role.
Finally, the claim that the positioning of anastas de (“now when He arose”) and proton (“first”) are appropriate at the beginning of a lengthy narrative, but inappropriate in Mark 16 with only eleven verses remaining, is a claim unsubstantiated by Greek usage. It is not as if there is some observable rule of Greek grammar or syntax that verifies such a claim. It is simply the subjective opinion of one observer—albeit an observer who possesses a fair level of scholarly expertise. The term “first” (proton) has already been explained as appropriate since Mary Magdalene was the initiator of getting the word of the resurrection out to the others. Verses 9-14 are, in fact, intimately tied together in their common function of identifying resurrection appearances.
The precise construction “now when she arose” (anastasa de) is used by Luke (1:39) to introduce the narrative concerning Mary’s visit to Elizabeth—a section that extends for only eighteen verses (1:39-56). He used the same construction to introduce the narrative reporting Jesus’ visit to Simon (4:38)—lasting four verses (4:38-41)—the broader context actually extending previous to its introduction. Additional uses of the same construction (e.g., Acts 5:17,34; 9:39; 11:28) further verify that its occurrence in the concluding section of Mark is neither unusual nor “ill-suited.” How may one rightly claim that anastas de is inappropriate in Mark 16:9-20 if it is the only time Mark used it? Surely, what Mark would or would not have done cannot be judged on the basis of a single occurrence, nor should Mark’s stylistic usage be judged on the basis of what Luke or other users of the Greek language did or did not do. Is it possible or permissible that Mark could have legitimately used the construction intentionally only one time—without subjecting himself to the charge of not being the author? To ask is to answer.
Before leaving this matter of the connection between verse 8 and verses 9-20, one other observation is apropos. It is true that if Mark’s original book ended at verse 8, the book ended abruptly, leaving a general impression of incompleteness. However, the same may be said regarding the endings of both Matthew and Luke. Matthew reports the Jews’ conspiracy to account for the resurrection by bribing the guards to say the disciples stole away the body (28:11-15), and then shifts abruptly to the eleven disciples receiving the commission to preach (28:16-20). Likewise, Luke has two abrupt shifts in his final chapter. He reports the visits to the tomb by the women and Peter (24:1-12) and then suddenly changes to the two disciples traveling on the road to Emmaus (24:13ff.). Another takes place at the end of the Emmaus narrative (24:13-35) when Jesus suddenly appears in the midst of the whole group of disciples (24:36ff.). Yet no one questions the genuineness of the endings of Matthew and Luke. The final chapter of John (21) follows on the heels of John’s grand climax to his carefully reasoned thesis (20:30-31), and gives the general impression of being anti-climactic and unnecessary. Likewise, many of Paul’s epistles end abruptly, followed by detached and unrelated greetings and salutations. No one questions the genuineness of the endings of these New Testament books.
While Metzger does not accept verses 9-20 as the original ending of Mark, neither does he believe that the book originally ended at verse 8: “It appears, therefore, that ephobounto gar [“for they were afraid”—DM] of Mark xvi.8 does not represent what Mark intended to stand at the end of his Gospel” (1978, p. 228). But this admission that something is missing after verse 8 could just as easily imply that verses 9-20 constitute that “something.” Metzger concedes this very point when, after noting that “the earliest ascertainable form of the Gospel of Mark ended with 16:8,” he offers only three possibilities to account for the abrupt ending:
“(a) the evangelist intended to close his Gospel at this place;
(b) the Gospel was never finished; or, as seems most probable,
(c) the Gospel accidentally lost its last leaf before it was multiplied by transcription”.
If verses 9-20 are, in fact, attributable to Mark, its absence in some manuscript copies is explicable on the very grounds offered by Metzger against their inclusion, i.e., the last leaf of a manuscript was lost—a manuscript from which copies were made that are now being used to discredit the genuineness of the verses in question. If, on the other hand, verses 9-20 are not genuine, then the original verses that followed verse 8 have been missing for 2,000 years, and we are forced to conclude that the book of Mark lacks information that the Holy Spirit intended the world to have, but which they have been denied—an objectionable conclusion to say the least .
The Vocabulary and Style of Verses 9-20
But what about the style and vocabulary of verses 9-20? Are they “non-Markan”? Textual scholar Bruce Metzger insists that they are. Indeed, for those scholars who deem the verses spurious, the most influential factor—the most decisive piece of evidence—is the alleged “non-Markan vocabulary.” He defends his conclusion by referring to “the presence of seventeen non-Marcan words or words used in a non-Marcan sense”. Alford made the same allegation over a century earlier: “No less than seventeen words and phrases occur in it (and some of them several times) which are never elsewhere used by Mark—whose adherence to his own peculiar phrases is remarkable” . The reader is urged to observe carefully the implicit assumption of those who reject verses 9-20 on such a basis: If the last twelve verses of a document employ words and expressions (whether one or seventeen?) that are not employed by the writer previously in the same document, then the last twelve verses of the document are not the product of the original writer. Is this line of thinking valid?
Over a century ago, in 1869, John A. Broadus provided a masterful evaluation (and decisive defeat) of this very contention. Using the Greek text that was available at the time produced by Tregelles, Broadus examined the twelve verses that precede Mark 16:9-20 —verses whose genuineness are above reproach—and applied precisely the same test to them. Incredibly, he found in the twelve verses preceding 16:9-20 exactly the same number of words and phrases (seventeen) that are not used previously by Mark! The words and their citation are as follows: tethneiken (15:44), gnous apo, edoreisato, ptoma (15:45), eneileisen, lelatomeimenon, petpas, prosekulisen (15:46), diagenomenou, aromata (16:1), tei mia ton sabbaton (16:2), apokulisei (16:3), anakekulistai, sphodra (16:4), en tois dexiois (16:5), eichen (in a peculiar sense), and tromos (16:8). The reader is surely stunned and appalled that textual critics would wave aside verses of Scripture as counterfeit and fraudulent on such fragile, flimsy grounds.
Writing a few years later, J.W. McGarvey applied a similar test to the last twelve verses of Luke, again, verses whose genuineness, like those preceding Mark 16:9-20, are above suspicion . He found nine words that are not used by Luke elsewhere in his book—four of which are not found anywhere else in the New Testament! Yet, once again, no textual critic or New Testament Greek manuscript scholar has questioned the genuineness of the last twelve verses of Luke. Indeed, the methodology that seeks to determine the genuineness of a text on the basis of new or unusual word use is a concocted, artificial, unscholarly, nonsensical, pretentious—and clearly discredited—criterion.
For the unbiased observer, this matter is settled: the strongest piece of internal evidence mustered against the genuineness of Mark 16:9-20 is no evidence at all. The two strongest arguments offered to discredit the inspiration of these verses as the production of Mark are seen to be lacking in substance and legitimacy. The reader of the New Testament may be confidently assured that these verses are original—written by the Holy Spirit through the hand of Mark as part of his original gospel account.
In this modern age, people take for granted that the New Testament they use represents authentic words and teachings of Jesus Christ and His Apostles. They don’t question the process by which these books were chosen to form the Bible. However there was a time when the New Testament as a collection of writings did not exist. The development of the New Testament canon came about over a long process in the early centuries of the Christian Church. It was not produced at a specific point in time, nor was it decided on by one specific person or council. The criteria for including a particular writing in the New Testament canon included such items as apostolic authenticity, orthodoxy, antiquity, and usage by earlier Church Fathers. There seems to be two identifiable periods in which different criteria were used for selecting authoritative writings. In the first two centuries, ‘apostolic authority’ was the important factor in deciding to keep or reject a particular writing. In the third and fourth centuries, the list of canonical books was mostly defined and the primary criterion used to reach final decisions was whether it was used by orthodox church theologians in earlier centuries. In dealing with the topic of what criteria were used to choose the writings to be included in the New Testament canon, it is important to understand why a New Testament canon was seen as something necessary to compile. In the earliest days of the church there was a strong oral tradition left by the Apostles with very little perceived need for an authoritative group of recognized Christian writings. When heresies threatened church doctrine and teaching, a more formal response was needed to define which documents were recognized as authoritative. In the early days after the Apostles of Christ, there were only scattered Christian writings that were seen as authoritative Christian literature. The words of Jesus Christ as heard and announced by the Apostles and other eyewitnesses were what was important to these early Christians. These words had been passed on verbally from the Apostles and subsequently to other men appointed by them to announce this Christian witness and tradition. Some churches had been sent letters by an Apostle and these churches had probably shared them with other local congregations. Even as Paul himself mentions in Colossians 4:16, “Now when this epistle is read among you, see that it is read also in the church of the Laodiceans, and that you likewise read the epistle from Laodicea.” “But in many cases Christians possessing a letter from Paul probably did not know that any others existed elsewhere. …It must have been at a later stage that the idea of making a collection of Paul’s letters caught on.”( How the New Testament Came into Being, by C.F.D. Moule Page 114) During this early period there were probably early accounts of the life of Christ also circulating among local regions and churches. Clement of Rome, writing about 90 CE, makes reference to quotes from Matthew (although this could have been from oral tradition). The Epistle of Barnabas, at the end of the first century, undoubtedly quotes Matthew 22:14 (since this saying is found nowhere else) when he says, “as it is written, ‘Many are called, but few are chosen.’”. Reference to these early Christian documents are made by others, such as the Gnostic Basilides (c.130) and Valentinus (c.140). Basilides quotes from Paul’s first letter to I Corinthians5 and the Gospel of John6. His quotes are only extant in Hippolytus’ refutation against his heresies. Valentinus wrote ‘The Gospel of Truth’ and the ‘Epistle to Rheginus on Resurrection’ in which he cites many passages from the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, the letters of Paul, along with Hebrews and Revelation.
The church in the first generations after Christ seemed content with this oral tradition and having local letters from the early Apostles, with no official statement about what were authoritative Christian writings. There seemed to be no need for authoritative and universally accepted Christian writings at an age that was so close to when Christ and his Apostles lived and taught. In uplifting the power of the spoken testimony of the apostles and their associates, Papias, an early second century church father says,
“If, then, any one who had attended on the elders came, I asked minutely after their sayings, — what Andrew or Peter said, or what was said by Philip, or by Thomas, or by James, or by John, or by Matthew, or by any other of the Lord’s disciples:…. For I imagined that what was to be got from books was not so profitable to me as what came from the living and abiding voice.” ( Papias, Fragments of Papias, )
However, during the early second century there arose internal attacks on the church in the form of different teachings and heresies. Some of the early deviations from the truths taught by the Church were from people like Montanus and Valentinus. The most notable attack concerning the topic at hand were the claims of Marcion in about 140 CE. Marcion was an early Christian Gnostic who believed that the God of the Old Testament was different than the God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ spoken of in the New Testament. Therefore, he stated that the gospel as passed on through the church had been corrupted and that the true gospel was one that rejected the Old Testament and any relation to it. In order to defend and spread this teaching, he gathered together a collection of writings which he claimed were the only official and inspired scriptures that contained the unadulterated truths conveyed by Jesus Christ. This collection consisted of most of the Gospel of Luke and all the Epistles of Paul (with some modifications removing references to the Old Testament). As stated by von Campenhausen regarding Marcion, “Till then no one had advanced, as he now did, the claim to present the only normative and authentic documents of Christianity, in order to use them for the purpose of a total transformation and renewal of the doctrine and preaching of the Church.” (Hans von Campenhausen, The Formation of the Christian Bible, Page 162)
Marcion’s canon raised some questions that had to be answered such as, ‘What was sound, godly, and apostolic teaching? Once defined, how could these teachings be defended?’ “The problem was the new one, which of the contending traditions in fact rightly reflected Jesus and his teaching, where the undistorted truth was to be found, and by what criteria it was to be determined.” ( Page 186) The church had to show that the teachings of Marcion were not what was taught by Christ or the Apostles from the beginning of the church. In order to address Marcion’s false claims, it became important to the early Christian Fathers to define what was the authority on Christian thought, doctrine, and teaching.
“In a Church where there was no heresy and no disputing and no oppression from outside, there would be no need even to draw up a definitive list. But in fact the Church did have to face just such troubles as these. The people who claimed to be Christians but who held ideas which the Christian world as a whole recognized as out of tune with the dominant notes of the tradition had to be met and replied to; and how could that be done successfully if the Church as a whole had no definition of its own authoritative writings? It was precisely because of the heretical contents of the writings to which these men appealed… that the Church had to reach a decision about which to exclude and which to recognize. … for the sake of defending the truth, they had to be officially and formally defined.”
Since the Christian churches were founded upon the original Apostles, it seemed obvious that the writings that came from them were the ones that would have accurately recorded the teachings of Jesus and the happenings of the early church. “A most important problem for the Church was to determine what really constituted a true gospel and a genuine apostolic writing.In order to prevent the exploitation of secret traditions, which were practically uncontrollable,the Church had to be careful to accept nothing which did not bear the stamp of apostolic guarantee.” (Bruce M. Metzger, The Canon of the New Testament: Its Origin, Development, and Significance)
“In view of the growing flood of gospels of a Gnostic character, and in face of the Marcionite claim to be the sole possessors of the few genuine and original documents, the catholic churches in their turn could not evade the necessity of laying down which texts were to be acknowledges as authentic and normative – ‘documents of the Lord’ – and which not.” (Hans von Campenhausen, 170)
One of the early Christian writers that combated Marcion’s heresy (and thus addressed his claim to have the only authoritative scriptures) was Irenaeus (fl. c.175-c.195). In addressing Marcion (and other heretical teachers), Irenaeus appealed to authoritative Christian writings that seem to be well known as apostolic. Although there was still no formal recognition of what was ‘scripture’ and what was not by this early time, there were writings that had been collected together and were generally viewed as authoritative. Thus Irenaeus helped to further define and formulate what the authoritative writings were and helped to prove their authority based upon apostolic witness. He quotes from these writings and defends them as the standard by which all Christian doctrine and practice should be derived.
“Irenaeus is no longer content to safeguard and expound the Old Testament alone; as the first catholic theologian he begins to appeal to the New Testament documents, that is, he explicitly names them, defends their authenticity, and declares them to be normative.…according to Irenaeus, Scripture and tradition, as regards their doctrinal content, are in entire agreement, and the purpose of Scripture is to confirm the teaching of the Church against all doubts.”(Hans von Campenhausen, 182.)
So, as Marcion tried to create an artificial list of historically inspired Christian writings, Irenaeus appeals to all the Christian writings that were written by the Apostles as the criteria for honoring a book as inspired and for using it to form Christian teaching and doctrine. He also argues that these documents, which were already esteemed and honored by the Christian churches, were the originals that have existed from the time of the Apostles.
Irenaeus compiled a list of books that he deemed as authoritative and thus for the first time created a preliminary Christian canon of Scripture. Even though no church council or group of leaders had made a statement about which books should be considered authoritative, the list by Irenaeus (and his contemporaries like Tertullian and Hippolytus) helped to create an established list of Christian documents for the Church in the third century, with only minor details to be worked out. “By the close of the second century, …, we can see the outline of what may be described as the nucleus of the New Testament. Although the fringes of the emerging canon remained unsettled for generations, a high degree of unanimity concerning the greater part of the New Testament was attained…” (Bruce M. Metzger, 75.)
The Muratorian Canon is another example showing that the criteria used for establishing the authority of a book in the second century CE was apostolic authenticity. This is a document dated about 170 CE that was found by (and named after) Muratori in the mid-eighteenth century. In mentioning apostolicity as a test for inclusion in the New Testament, Metzger says, “When the writer of the Muratorian Fragment declares against the admission of the Shepherd of Hermas into the canon, he does so on the ground that it is too recent, and that it cannot find a place ‘among the prophets, whose number is complete, or among the apostles’. … the apostolic origin, real or putative, of a book provided a presumption of authority, …” (Bruce M. Metzger, 253)
It is important to understand that for documents to have ‘apostolic authority”, it was not necessary for an original Apostle to write them. What was important was not ‘apostolic authorship’ but rather ‘apostolic authority’, thereby accurately conveying the lives and teachings of Christ and the early Apostles. “It is certainly necessary that the normative writings should be ancient and authentic, in order to demonstrate what the apostolic teaching originally was, but it is not essential that these Scriptures should without exception derive solely from the apostles. It is enough if they reproduce the apostolic proclamation conscientiously and without misrepresentation.”
Certain books, such as the Gospel of Mark and the Gospel of Luke, do not claim to have been written by an Apostle. However, it was generally believed and accepted that Mark “‘having become the interpreter of Peter, wrote down accurately, though not indeed in order, whatsoever he remembered of the things done or said by Christ. … For he was careful of one thing, not to omit any of the things which he had heard, and not to state any of them falsely.’ These things are related by Papias concerning Mark.” (Eusebius, Church History), Likewise, Luke was a traveling companion to the Apostle Paul and was committed to writing a historically accurate account of the life of Christ and of the early church. Showing the close connection that Luke had with Paul, Irenaeus writes:
“But that this Luke was inseparable from Paul, and his fellow-laborer in the Gospel, he himself clearly evinces, not as a matter of boasting, but as bound to do so by the truth itself. … Paul has himself declared also in the Epistles, saying: “Demas hath forsaken me,… and is departed unto Thessalonica; Crescens to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia. Only Luke is with me.”From this he shows that he was always attached to and inseparable from him. And again he says, in the Epistle to the Colossians: “Luke, the beloved physician, greets you.” But surely if Luke, who always preached in company with Paul, and is called by him “the beloved,” and with him performed the work of an evangelist, and was entrusted to hand down to us a Gospel, learned nothing different from him (Paul), as has been pointed out from his words,…” (Irenaeus, Adversus Haereses (Against Heresies)
Implicit within the understanding of ‘apostolic authority’ includes the understanding that the writing contains orthodox teaching and has been around from antiquity (the time of the Apostles). Obviously if a writing had apostolic authority, then it must be believed to be orthodox with the current beliefs and teachings of the church, and it also must have existed from the earliest days of the church, when the apostles were still alive and writing. If a document was not orthodox according to the standards of Church doctrine in that day, then it would not have been a document that could claim apostolic authority. “In other words, they had recourse to the criterion of orthodoxy. By ‘orthodoxy’ they meant the apostolic faith – the faith set forth in the undoubted apostolic writings and maintained in the churches which had been founded by apostles. This appeal to the testimony of the churches of apostolic foundation was developed specially by Irenaeus.” And if it was not a document that was known to exist since the earliest days of the church, then it could not claim apostolic authority. “If a writing was the work of an apostle or of someone closely associated with an apostle, it must belong to the apostolic age. Writings of later date, whatever their merit, could not be included among the apostolic or canonical books.”
Whereas in the first two centuries the dominant criterion used to verify a genuine Christian writing was apostolic authority, this no longer would be the case in the third and fourth centuries. Due to the writings of early church theologians such as Irenaeus, Tertullian, and Hippolytus, by the early part of the third century, the uncertainties and questions regarding which writings composed the Christian scriptures no longer seemed to be an issue to be debated or questioned. By the time of Origen in the early third century, it seems that the writings quoted by these earlier churchmen as authoritative were now generally accepted as the books that composed the New Testament scriptures. As von Campenhausen says,
“The tentative uncertainties of the earlier period, when it became necessary for the first time to form and consolidate the new Canon, have, by the time we come of Origen, been in principle overcome and belong to the past. The sacred and divine Scriptures of the Old and New Testament are for him a datum which God has bestowed on the Church. The faith of Christians lives by the Scripture and cleaves to it alone.”
The criteria used for recognizing a book as authoritative would no longer be primarily apostolic authority. It would now be whether a book was quoted by earlier churchmen as authoritative. Von Campenhausen says concerning Origen’s view of authoritative scriptures that, “Origen is unacquainted with any ‘principle of apostolicity’ as a means of arriving at a correct selection. It is clear that for him the factor of supreme importance was universal acceptance by the Church, and to this he frequently refers.”
This principle is seen more clearly by the mid fourth century with writers such as Eusebius of Caesarea, Jerome, and Augustine of Hippo. By this time, even though there was some debate regarding whether certain books should be included in the authoritative list of Scriptures, these debates were mainly resolved by how the books were treated by earlier Church Fathers. If the books were treated as having apostolic authority by earlier writers, then those in this later period would consider them to have this authority. Another point that was discussed at this time was whether the book under question was orthodox in terms of early and present church doctrine, but this was overshadowed by whether earlier church writers, who were considered orthodox, used a certain book as authoritative.
Notice how the early church historian Eusebius of Caesarea, writing in the early part of the fourth century, no longer uses the criteria of apostolic authority, but rather whether a book was quoted by early orthodox church fathers.
“ONE epistle of Peter, that called the first, is acknowledged as genuine. And this the ancient elders used freely in their own writings as an undisputed work. But we have learned that his extant second Epistle does not belong to the canon; yet, as it has appeared profitable to many, it has been used with the other Scriptures. The so-called Acts of Peter, however, and the Gospel which bears his name, and the Preaching and the Apocalypse, as they are called, we know have not been universally accepted, because no ecclesiastical writer, ancient or modern, has made use of testimonies drawn from them. But in the course of my history I shall be careful to show, in addition to the official succession, what ecclesiastical writers have from time to time made use of any of the disputed works, and what they have said in regard to the canonical and accepted writings, as well as in regard to those which are not of this class. Such are the writings that bear the name of Peter, only one of which I know to be genuine and acknowledged by the ancient elders. Paul’s fourteen epistles are well known and undisputed. It is not indeed right to overlook the fact that some have rejected the Epistle to the Hebrews, saying that it is disputed by the church of Rome, on the ground that it was not written by Paul. But what has been said concerning this epistle by those who lived before our time I shall quote in the proper place. In regard to the so-called Acts of Paul, I have not found them among the undisputed writings.” (Eusebius, Church History)
Both Jerome and Augustine, who ‘exerted a decisive influence in settling the Canon for the Latin church’ felt that the list of books they had received as authoritative should not be questioned and debated, but should be received and defended. Even though Jerome had his own opinions about whether certain books should be included in the New Testament canon or not, he felt that the canon had already been established at that no person, however eminent, could add or take away from it based on personal preferences. Jerome, as a major constituent in establishing the canon of the Western Church, was greatly influenced by the fact that certain books had always been and were currently recognized by the Eastern Church as authoritative. This is especially seen in F.F. Bruce’s quote of Jerome concerning his comments on the authority of the book of Hebrews:
“This must be said to our people, that the epistle which is entitled ‘To the Hebrews’ is accepted as the apostle Paul’s not only by the churches of the east but by all church writers in the Greek language of earlier times, although many judge it to be by Barnabas or by Clement. It is of no great moment who the author is, since it is the work of a churchman and receives recognition day by bay in the churches’ public reading. If the custom of the Latins does not receive it among the canonical scriptures, neither, by the same liberty, do the churches of the Greeks accept John’s Apocalypse. Yet we accept them both, not following the custom of the present time but the precedent of early writers, who generally make free use of testimonies from both works. And this they do,… treating them as canonical ecclesiastical works.” (Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, Volume II,)
Augustine made similar statements about receiving the book of Hebrews based on its reception and use by the Eastern Church. “‘I am moved rather by the prestige of the eastern churches’, said Augustine, ‘to include this epistle too among the canonical writings’; but he had reservation about its authorship. Like his older contemporary Jerome, he distinguished between canonicity and apostolic authorship.”
At a time before official statements were made regarding which books the universal Church as a whole received as the New Testament canon, Augustine made statements regarding what criteria a church should use to determine whether to recognize a document as authoritative. “… among the canonical Scriptures he will judge according to the following standard: to prefer those that are received by all the catholic churches to those which some do not receive. Among those, again, which are not received by all, he will prefer such as have the sanction of the greater number and those of greater authority.” This again shows that by this later date it was more a question of general church usage and acceptance that ratified a document. The question of apostolic authority had been decided upon by earlier generations of Christian churchmen.
Although Irenaeus had listed which books he felt were authoritative for the Christian Church, he didn’t make a ‘closed list’ containing definitive statements about other books that should not be allowed to have authority in the church. “The practice of drawing up closed lists of authoritative NT scriptures appears to have started with Eusebius, and within a short time such lists began to appear everywhere in both the East and the West. … At first these lists were products of individuals. Subsequently (especially in the fifth century) they began to grow out of council decisions.” Then when Jerome produced the Latin Vulgate translation of the entire Bible it was generally accepted by the Western Church as authoritative. This virtually fixed the canon in the Western Church.
By the end of the fourth century the New Testament canon was fixed in the form that it would continue to keep until the present day. The councils of Hippo and Carthage at the end of the fourth century confirmed that these books “should be read as divine Scriptures to the exclusion of all others in the churches.”
“The first express definition of the New Testament canon, in the form in which it has since been universally retained, comes from two African synods, held in 393 at Hippo, and 397 at Carthage, in the presence of Augustin, who exerted a commanding influence on all the theological questions of his age. By that time, at least, the whole church must have already become nearly unanimous as to the number of the canonical books; so that there seemed to be no need even of the sanction of a general council.”
In defining which books composed the New Testament canon, these councils did “not impose any innovation on the churches; they simply endorsed what had become the general consensus of the churches of the west and of the greater part of the east.”
Because the New Testament canon was developed over a long period of time in the beginning centuries of the church and a great number of people influenced this final outcome, defining the criteria used for including books in the canon is a complicated process. An overview of the major Christian writers in these centuries seems to indicate that there were two periods in which different criteria were used. In the first two centuries, what was important was apostolic authority, recognizing those writings which accurately conveyed the original apostolic message. In the third and fourth centuries, the list of canonical books was already mostly defined and the primary criterion used to reach final decisions was whether the writing had been used as authoritative and apostolic by godly, orthodox men in earlier centuries, thus defining for us the New Testament books that we have and use today.
Books for further reading:
Augustine. On Christian Doctrine,
Barnabas. Letter of Barnabas
Bruce, F.F. The Canon of Scripture..
Clement of Rome. First Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians,
Douglas, J.D., The New International Dictionary of the Christian Church,
Eusebius. Church History
Geisler, Norman L. and William E. Nix. From God to Us: How We Got Our Bible
Harris, R. Laird. Inspiration and Canonicity of the Bible
Hippolytus, Refutation of All Heresies,
Irenaeus. Adversus Haereses (Against Heresies)
Metzger, Bruce M. The Canon of the New Testament: Its Origin, Development, and Significance.
One of my friend asked me a question about infant baptism, I have given an instant reply that Infant baptism contradicts the sound teachings of Scripture, just for some back up I have gone through the writings of early church fathers, I was really shocked to see the overwhelming evidence to support the practice of infant baptism in first four centuries. Here is the debate between two great scholars on infant baptism and its final conclusions.
This study will examine both the prevalence and the theology of infant baptism before 400 C.E. with particular attention paid to the differences in the understanding of the sacrament between the eastern and western churches. I will conclude that infant baptism was an encouraged practice throughout the first four centuries of Christian history, though the postponement of baptism became a common problem in the decades following the official recognition of the church in the fourth century. Still, while infant baptism was common practice in both East and West, the interpretations given the rite show different emphases. The West tended to understand infant baptism primarily in legal terms, as a cleansing of original guilt, while in the East the sacrament was interpreted in more covenantal terms as an ingrafting into Christ for Divine blessing and empowerment. I will conclude briefly with some observations about the classical Protestant understanding of infant baptism.
But before analyzing the theology of the rite, we first must answer the question of its antiquity. Did the earliest Christians baptize their infants, or was that practice a novelty, introduced only in the third century and not considered normative within the Christian community until the end of the fourth century?
PART I. The Prevalence of Infant Baptism: The Jeremias-Aland Debate Revisited
This question of the prevalence of infant baptism in the early church has most recently been the object of intense scholarly debate in the interchange that took place between 1958 and 1963 between two respected German scholars, Joachim Jeremias and Kurt Aland.
1. Jeremias’ Infant Baptism in the First Four Centuries
The debate was inaugurated by Jeremias, Professor of Theology at the University of Göttingen, with his 1958 volume Die Kindertaufe in den ersten vier Jahrhunderten, translated into English two years later as Infant Baptism in the First Four Centuries. Jeremias begins his presentation with the New Testament and its cultural milieu and works forward toward the fourth century, arguing first for the admission to Christian baptism of the children of proselytes alongside their parents. Jeremias notes in particular the family solidarity in the ancient world, so different from modern Western notions of individualism, noting also the infant baptism of Gentile proselytes to Judaism from the first century B.C.E. onward, the initiation of infants into mystery religions, the household baptisms in the New Testament (Acts 16:15, 33; 1 Cor. 1:16), as well as funerary inscriptions of Christian infants indicating that they had been baptized.
Jeremias continues his reasoning by arguing further for the baptism of Christian children born to Christian parents in the first two centuries. He focuses his discussion on three New Testament passages, conservatively suggesting that Paul’s statement about the child of a believer being considered holy (agia) in 1 Corinthians 7:14 derives from the child’s birth to a believing parent rather than to its baptism, but suggesting that baptism is not precluded by its holy status. Jeremias next analyzes Acts 21:21, suggesting (in the context of Paul’s principle of baptism replacing circumcision in Colossians 2:11 and in light of the practice evidenced among the Symmachians) that the Jewish Christians were both circumcising and baptizing their male infants. From Jesus’ laying of his hands on the children for blessing in Mark 10:13-16, warning no one to “forbid, hinder, or prevent” (kwluein) children from coming to him, Jeremias concludes that, at the time Mark’s gospel was written, the children of Christian parents were likely baptized in Rome.Adding to this line of evidence Origen’s statements, repeated four times, that the ancient practice not only in Egypt but throughout the East had been to baptize infants within their earliest days, Jeremias presents two epitaphs of children, each specifying that the children were baptized and of baptized parents (pisto ek pistwn).
Jeremias adds to his evidence several further arguments, proposing that, had the baptism of Christian children been regularly postponed, two classes of Christians would have developed—the baptized Christians and the unbaptized Christians—but such a distinction was not known. Further, he adds, had infant baptism been introduced as a novel practice in the second century, it certainly would have caused a significant discussion, a discussion that is not evidenced in the sources. Further, Jeremias suggests, the practice was nowhere identified as the special doctrine of a particular sect within the church, but was present everywhere in the earliest sources available.
Having argued for missionary baptism of infants and for the baptism of Christian infants in the second century, Jeremias continues his presentation with a discussion of the development of the practice in the second century. He makes use of Polycarp’s testimony to have served Christ eighty-six years, suggesting that Polycarp must have been baptized as a very small child around the year 80 C.E. in order to identify these years as ones of service to Christ. Similar evidence is taken from Polycrates, who lived in the Lord (ecwn en kurivn) sixty-five years, and from Pliny, who notes around 112 C.E. that the very young (teneri) belong to the church just as do the adults—as well as Justin Martyr, who in his First Apology (150-55 C.E.) speaks of “many men and women who have been disciples of Christ from childhood (oi ek paideuwn emaqhteuqhsav tw cristw).”
Further indirect evidence is deduced from third century references forbidding Christian families from table fellowship with the unbaptized, again implying that Christian children were baptized. Jeremias further adds that, given his belief that baptism was “regeneration into God,” Irenaeus of Lyon about 180 could only have had baptism in mind when he spoke of “all who are born again in God, the infants, and the small children… and the mature.” Similarly, Hippolytus’ Apostolic Tradition, written down about 215 but containing information that was older, instructed that children should be baptized before adults: “First you should baptize the little ones.” All who could speak at their baptism should do so, the text continues, “but for those who cannot speak, their parents should speak or another who belongs to their family.”
Again, Jeremias includes multiple funerary inscriptions from baptized children; those whose baptisms were delayed, he suggests, were children of unbaptized parents who received emergency baptism from the church before their deaths. Even Tertullian’s rhetoric in favor of postponing baptism was aimed at overturning an existing practice of infant baptism, Jeremias argues, indicating the rite had been practiced among North African Christian families in the second century—early evidence, given the almost complete lack of knowledge about any aspect of North African Christianity before the year 180.By 251 or 253, Jeremias observes, despite Tertullian’s efforts to reverse the practice, Cyprian and the synod at Carthage would instruct Christian parents who had been waiting until the eighth day to baptize their children to baptize them immediately instead.
But having argued that infant baptism was the normative practice among the Christians in the first three centuries, Jeremias has to deal with the presence of numerous figures born to Christian parents in the fourth century—including some of the most ardent voices for infant baptism—who postponed their baptisms to adulthood. Jeremias therefore proposes a great fourth century crisis in which the postponement of baptism among Christians became a significant threat to the church’s established tradition of infant baptism. Infant baptism was not the sole potential victim of this threat; rather, the tendency arose within the post-Constantinian church (beginning with Constantine himself!) to delay one’s repentance and baptism, at times, even until one’s deathbed. Among the increasingly large catechumenate, the children of unbaptized parents would not be baptized, and even baptized parents themselves might put off their children’s baptisms, always aware that it was easier to deal with pre-baptismal sins than with post-baptismal sins—eager to get their children safely through the temptations of youth before they should be submitted to the moral demands of the church.
Often it would take the threat of illness and death to convince Christian parents to baptize a child—such was almost the case with Augustine (born but not baptized in 354), though he recovered and Monica failed to follow through with the rite. Similarly, Jeremias observes others who failed to receive baptism as infants: Basil (born 330 but baptized at age twenty-seven); Ambrose (born 333 or 339 but baptized in 374); John Chrysostom (born 344/54 but baptized in 368/72); Jerome (born in the 340s, but baptized in 366); and Rufinus (born 345, but baptized at age twenty-five). All were raised with at least one Christian parent, Jeremias notices, yet each postponed baptism until adulthood.
Still, within Jeremias’ narrative, these individual instances all run counter to the then existing tradition of the church. And, Jeremias argues, the earliest record of the child of Christian parents not being baptized in infancy is that of Gregory of Nazianzus in the year 329. Before that date, there is no evidence of postponed baptism among Christian children. And in addition to emergency baptisms that continued to be normative for sick or dying children, Jeremias argues, the survival of infant baptism throughout this fourth century crisis is evidenced by Church Orders, decisions such as that of the Spanish Synod of Elvira (306/12), tombstone inscriptions, and other mid-fourth century texts which impress on parents the duty of having their children baptized. Indeed, Jeremias adds, Arians, Donatists, and Jewish-Christian Symmachians all continued to baptize infants throughout the fourth century, just as did the orthodox Christians. Neither Augustine nor Pelagius had ever heard of a heretic who had denounced the baptism of infantes or parvuli.
After about 365, Jeremias contends, the crisis began to be overcome with numerous authors—Optatus of Milevis, Ambrose, Chrysostom, Cyril of Alexandria, Didymus the Blind—citing infant baptism as the established custom, enjoining Christian parents to bring their children to baptism without delay. In 401 the imperial infant Theodosius II was baptized shortly after his birth. The crisis, as Joachim Jeremias reconstructs it, was evidenced by 329 and continued until about 365, the decades immediately following the official recognition of Christianity when countless pagans were entering the church. But Jeremias’ reconstruction of baptismal practice in the early church would soon be challenged by his fellow countryman, Kurt Aland.
Lets look at the points of Kurt Aland.
2. Aland’s Did the Early Church Baptize Infants?
In 1961, Kurt Aland, Professor of theology at the University of Münster, responded to Jeremias with a critique under the title Die Säuglingstaufe im Neuen Testament und in der Alten Kirche: Ein Antwort an Joachim Jeremias, published in English in 1963 simply as Did the Early Church Baptize Infants? In this volume, Aland constructs a very different history of infant baptism. Interpreting much the same evidence as Jeremias, Aland contends that adult baptism was normative in the early church, that infant baptism was introduced sometime around 200 C.E., but that the practice did not become normative until the end of the fourth century.
Yet, while Aland considers the same evidence as Jeremias, his methodology is opposite that of Jeremias. While Jeremias had begun with the New Testament and its cultural milieu, working forward, Aland begins with Tertullian early in the third century and works backward. If Jeremias had sought indirect evidence for infant baptism before 200, Aland will only be convinced by direct evidence. Where Jeremias asks whether evidence is compatible with infant baptism, Aland asks whether it is possible to interpret that evidence as compatible with believer’s baptism. Thus these two authors interrogate their evidence with opposite assumptions, trying to fit the data with opposite conclusions, taking the evidences in opposite order.
Aland begins his argument with a brief summary of Jeremias’ presentation of the evidence for infant baptism before 200 C.E. These first two centuries form the center of Aland’s critique. After 200, Aland relies on Tertullian and an evidently mixed practice, interpreting the numerous cases of Christian children baptized as adults in the fourth century, not as a crisis in an existing tradition of infant baptism, but as evidence that infant baptism was still a relatively uncommon innovation by the mid-fourth century. Beginning with Tertullian around 200, Aland works his way backwards, stressing at every point the lack of direct evidence for infant baptism before that time and the indirect character of Jeremias’ argument for this early period. From this, Aland postulates the existence of an age limit for baptism in the early church.
Three groups of evidence exist for infant baptism in the third century, Aland observes: the Church Order of Hippolytus, Cyprian’s synodal letter, and the writings of Origen.Cyprian cannot be denied as clear evidence, Aland acknowledges; by 250, infant baptism in North Africa was not only a church rule but a church requirement. Aland does not acknowledge Origen, however, as evidence for the prevalence of infant baptism. Had the rite truly been passed down from the apostles in an unbroken tradition, Aland argues, Origen’s polemic against those who deny the necessity of infant baptism would be superfluous. Rather, Origen is constructing a fictitious tradition in response to circles—evidently large circles, to provoke Origen’s attention—which postponed the baptism of Christian children. The fact that Origen appealed to the “custom of the church” (ecclesiae observantia) does not indicate that infant baptism was the universal practice of the church, but rather that it was not. Otherwise, Origen would not have felt compelled to use his strongest possible argument.
Aland similarly reverses the “face value” significance of Hippolytus’ Church Order. Aland first suggests that the sections of the text dealing with the baptism of children could be interpolations, though he offers no external evidence or textual tradition to indicate that this is the case. Rather, he simply notes that the sections before and after the portion on infants deal with adults.Next, Aland argues that the Apostolic Tradition, by its very nature as a Church Order, was establishing a new practice and not, as Jeremias had argued, recording older traditions. Church Orders, Aland states, do not look backward, but forward. Hippolytus takes one no further back than Hippolytus himself, just as Origen takes one back little further than Origen himself, perhaps to the end of the second century. Similarly, Tertullian need not have been reacting to an ancient tradition of infant baptism; the practice may have been novel in his time.
Having argued that the earliest direct evidence for infant baptism demonstrates the practice no earlier than 200 C.E., Aland next turns his attention to second century patristic statements concerning infant baptism. He weighs the evidence from the Apostolic Fathers, beginning with the Didache and its baptismal instructions, which by their very nature as baptismal instructions “automatically” rule out infants and little children—since infants cannot understand instructions, let alone fast for one or two days beforehand. Likewise, Aland argues that the Shepherd of Hermas and Letter of Barnabas both rule out children as candidates for baptism, since these texts speak only of past sins being forgiven, sins children do not carry. The apologist Justin is likewise referenced as presupposing only adult baptism, since he teaches that only those convinced of the truth should be baptized.
Aland criticizes Jeremias for using Irenaeus as evidence for infant baptism. Irenaeus does speak of Christ sanctifying “all who are born again in God—infants, and children, and boys, and youth, and old men.” But Irenaeus makes this statement in a context in which he is arguing that Jesus lived through every stage of human life in order to save every stage of human life—a context Jeremias does not provide. Irenaeus need not be understood to speak of infants and children being baptized; rather, all that is affirmed is that Christ came to sanctify all humanity.And after dealing with these patristic figures, Aland turns to a lengthy analysis of Tertullian’s views on baptism, which Aland takes as normative for the early church, and in which “we catch a glimpse of the very beginnings of infant baptism in Carthage and Africa.”
At this stage in his presentation, after arguing that no direct evidence of infant baptism exists before 200, and having argued that infant baptism is excluded within texts before this time, Aland turns more directly to the question of the indirect evidence for infant baptism in the second century. Aland counters Jeremias’ use of Polycarp, Polycrates and Justin as evidence for infant baptism by introducing Clement as evidence. The First Letter of Clement, Aland points out, also speaks of those who have “walked among us from youth to old age unblameably.” Yet if written in 96 C.E., Aland argues, then those in old age (say, 60 to 70) would have been born between 26 and 36 C.E. and certainly would have been pagans. All of Jeremias’ similar references cannot be used to demonstrate infant baptism.
In addition to this line of argument, Aland examines Jeremias’ use of Christian inscriptions. Aland notes that the earliest of these inscriptions is in the third century, so they can yield no conclusive information about baptismal practice before that time, when, as previously argued, infant baptism was beginning to be introduced. And even of the inscriptions Jeremias presents, Aland continues, most demonstrate some delay of baptism after birth, proving only the emergency baptism of children and not the habitual baptism of infants.
Aland continues by proposing alternate readings of the Pauline and gospels material Jeremias uses, followed by a reinterpretation of the household baptisms in Acts and 1 Corinthians. Aland argues that Lydia could not have had young children or infants when her household (oiko) was baptized since no husband is mentioned in her account in Acts 16. Aland similarly rejects the account of the baptism of Cornelius’ household because those present were speaking in tongues, indicating a group of “like-minded adults…. Of children, or the very young, or infants there is not even a hint here.”And again, while the household of the Philippian jailer was no doubt baptized when the jailer believed, Aland reasons, there is no evidence that his house contained small children or infants.
Thus Aland concludes his response to Jeremias. Infant baptism was introduced some time around 200 C.E. and became an accepted practice within a few small circles of Christians. But over the next two centuries the practice became more common, though the original practice of adult (only) baptism remained common through most of the fourth century. Infant baptism was not a compulsory practice in much of the church until the end of the fourth century. “To this day nobody can prove an actual case of the baptism of an infant in the period before A.D. 200 on the basis of [the sources].” Indeed, Aland, argues, it was only the acceptance of the doctrine of original guilt that led to the acceptance of infant baptism on a large scale; when infants were considered innocent (witness Tertullian), there was no demand for their baptism. The doctrine of infant baptism, Aland suggests, rests on a prior acceptance of a doctrine of original guilt.
Aland’s volume did not end his debate with Jeremias. Jeremias himself took the debate one step further in 1962 with a reply of his own, Nochmals: Die Anfänge der Kindertaufe, the English edition appearing in 1963 as The Origins of Infant Baptism: A Further Reply to Kurt Aland.In this study, Jeremias devotes further attention to the New Testament household baptisms, critiquing arguments Jeremias considers to be “certainly the weakest in Aland’s work.” Jeremias next goes on the offense, questioning Aland’s unsupported assertion that an age limit on baptism existed in the early church.
Jeremias continues this second volume by questioning Aland’s interpretation of Tertullian and Origen as demonstrating that infant baptism was a recent innovation. Aland has not demonstrated that Tertullian is speaking against a new phenomenon, Jeremias contends, noting that Origen on multiple occasions explicitly states that infant baptism was the established custom in the churches. There was no debate evidenced by Origen over whether infants should be baptized, so much as over why infants had always been baptized.
Finally, Jeremias concludes by critiquing Aland’s mechanism for his proposed change from believer’s baptism to infant baptism: the notion that it was a response to the doctrine of original sin. Jeremias observes that Aland understands baptism to be almost exclusively a bath for the remission of sins. Jeremias argues that this picture of baptism presents a truncated view of the New Testament doctrine of baptism, which is an eschatological act in which the participant is snatched from the dominion of the devil and incorporated into the mystical body of Christ, entering the Kingdom of God, changing lordship, and receiving newness of life. Aland, Jeremias argues, has projected back onto the patristic church a view of baptism that was only just beginning to replace the older, fuller understanding. Children needed incorporation into the Kingdom of God regardless of whether they carried the guilt of original sin. Indeed, Jeremias argues, it was precisely the truncated, “magical” view of baptism as merely a washing from sin that drove Tertullian and others after him to want its postponement, even at times to one’s deathbed.
4. So DID the Early Church Baptize Infants?
In the world of publishing, Jeremias had the last word over Aland. Still, what is one to make of the debate? Which narrative more accurately reflects what we know from the patristic era—a narrative of apostolic infant baptism being challenged in a fourth century crisis, or a narrative of an ancient age limit being slowly corrupted after 200 C.E. into the baptism of infants? Much evidence points toward the former view, that espoused by Jeremias.
Certainly Jeremias presents some weak arguments, such as his use of Polycarp as evidence or infant baptism—and Aland rightly critiques Jeremias on such points. Yet Aland’s general methodology—of assuming that no infant baptism existed where direct references are absent—is flawed. Frankly, there is relatively little direct evidence of any aspect of Christian practice before 200! It was not until the church grew in size and influence that large numbers of texts survived. Aland’s volume is a lengthy argument from silence, so that his approach of working backward from Tertullian (a key accomplice in his argument from silence) leads him to reject the extensive indirect evidence that Jeremias proposes. [That Tertullian should in any sense be considered normative for patristic Christianity is itself an extremely disputable proposition!]
This rejection of all indirect evidence is itself a second flaw in Aland’s argument. Again, Aland goes to sometimes extreme lengths to explain away the indirect evidence that Jeremias presents. In short, from the earliest period for which modern historians have extensive data—the end of the second century—infant baptism is directly evidenced. For the early period for which little is known, infant baptism appears implied, for example, in Irenaeus’ mention that infants and young children were born again in God. His mention of this in a context of Christ’s having passed through all the stages of life does not negate the fact that Irenaeus said that infants were born again in God, that is, baptized. Noting, as Aland does, that the statement was made as part of a broader theological context does not automatically negate the truth of the individual statement. An infant’s being born again in God could only mean for Irenaeus its having been baptized—and (within his broader theological context) thus sanctified through Christ, who himself sanctified infancy by passing through infancy.
Yet Aland follows up on his argument from silence with special pleading, rejecting all indirect evidence—though even this rejection is a double standard, given Aland’s proposition of an age limit for patristic baptism that he nowhere “directly” demonstrates. Aland’s special pleading is particularly problematic in his dealings with Origen. Origen clearly states on numerous occasions that the universal practice of the church had always been to baptize infants, noting that this tradition had been handed down from the apostles. And these comments from Origen are almost given in passing—Origen’s context for these remarks is not a reply to those opposing infant baptism (he is not discussing baptism at all!). Rather, he appears to direct his comments toward those who were questioning the sinfulness of infants. Origen uses an evidently agreed upon practice of infant baptism to support his conviction that children were born defiled. Aland imports a foreign context and a hermeneutic of suspicion to make Origen say the exact opposite of what his comments actually demonstrate.
A third flaw in Aland’s methodology is his failure to adequately take into account the cultural milieu of Roman, Greek and Jewish antiquity. In particular, his dismissal of the possibility that children were involved in the New Testament household baptisms does not do justice to the fact that early readers would have assumed children to be involved. Gentile children were initiated into Judaism through baptism and into the mystery cults through the same initiatory rites as adults, just as male Jewish infants were circumcised on the eighth day. The father in the ancient world was the head of the household, and what applied to him applied to the whole oiko—not only the infants and small children, but the slaves and their children as well. A modern notion of individualism cannot be assumed as a context for the study of patristic baptism.
A fourth flaw with Aland’s argument, and one not developed by Jeremias, involves Aland’s identification of infant baptism as growing out of a prior notion of original guilt. As shall be seen in the last portion of this paper, the actual order of events is the reverse of what Aland proposes. Infant baptism, particularly in the fourth century, was used to justify the doctrine of original sin, not vice versa. Augustine would not appeal to a universally agreed upon belief in original guilt to solidify support for infant baptism; rather he would appeal to a universally agreed upon practice of infant baptism to encourage the acceptance of the doctrine of original guilt. And many proponents of infant baptism and the East did not believe in original guilt at all. Aland’s contention that a belief in original guilt led to the development of infant baptism is unfounded.
Yet if infant baptism was an ancient and even apostolic practice within the Christian church, another, more nuanced question arises: Was the practice obligatory? Or, rather, was the baptism of infants practiced only when an infant’s life was in danger? At least four possible options must be distinguished in seeking to describe the church’s practice:
1. Baptism of adults only was obligatory; infant baptism was prohibited.
2. Baptism of infants was permitted (emergency baptism), but was not encouraged.
3. Baptism of infants was encouraged, but its postponement was not prohibited.
4. Baptism of infants was obligatory; its postponement was prohibited.
The first of these possibilities—the one apparently proposed by Aland for the first two centuries—fails to do justice to the evidence. Indeed, no patristic author forbade the emergency baptism of dying children. The last of these four options—that Christian parents were obligated to baptize their children—is clearly the practice universally from the late fourth century onward. And, as even Aland acknowledges, it was also the universal teaching in Africa by 250, when the bishops there unanimously ordered immediate baptism of infants, rather than waiting the eight days that had been required with circumcision. Origen would also seem to indicate that the practice was normative in Egypt and much of the East by about 200.
But the fourth century saw much postponement of baptism, likely due to the assumption that post-baptismal sins were more difficult to forgive than pre-baptismal sins. In some circles, the baptism of Christian infants—while encouraged by what theological voices survive—was evidently not obligatory, or at least the obligation was not tightly enforced. This mixed practice would lead to the second and third options, above. The second possibility assumes that believer’s baptism was normative, but since of all the theologians only the rigorist Tertullian urges the postponement of baptism until adulthood, this proposal seems unlikely. Rather, it would seem that infant baptism was encouraged within the church almost everywhere, obligatory in much of the church, but briefly neglected by many in the middle of the fourth century—in the decades immediately following the official recognition of Christianity when the number of catechumens in the church dramatically increased. So having now established the prevalence of infant baptism in the first four hundred years, our focus turns to the interpretations given the rite in the East and in the West.
PART II. The Theology of Infant Baptism, East and West
To a significant extent—at least so far as the theological task is concerned—the preceding discussion has been a necessary foundation for the shorter, but perhaps more significant discussion, that follows. For the historian, the past is significant in its own rite, but for the theologian, the beginnings of Christian history have a normative quality that carries a weight of authority within the church. Were infant baptism not an apostolic and ancient practice, its interpretation would hardly carry such significance—at least (I hope) not within the world of Christian orthodoxy. So how was this rite of baptizing infants understood within the patristic era?
No single, unified interpretation of infant baptism is evident in the first four Christian centuries; indeed, what appears is a universal practice searching for a theological explanation. Still, two common theologies of infant baptism do arise, one centered in the East, the other centered in the West—though not all patristic authors fit neatly into one of these two approaches. In the East, this section will consider John Chrysostom and Gregory of Nazianzus. In the West, Cyprian and Augustine will be examined, as will Tertullian and Origen, whose views do not completely parallel the main theological developments in either the East or the West.
1. The East: Gregory of Nazianzus & John Chrysostom
In the Christian East, a tradition arose in which the baptismal theology for infants was adapted from the baptismal theology for adults, but without infant baptism being understood as a remission of sins which, in the case of children, was considered unnecessary. Numerous benefits of baptism were stressed for the infant, as with the adult, baptism being interpreted in covenantal terms as a union with Christ and all the graces that flow from him. Gregory of Nazianzus, while appearing to have some concept of original guilt, does not link that concept to his understanding of infant baptism. Rather, Gregory argues, infants dying without baptism do not carry the guilt of sins and are not punished. Indeed, they are neither punished nor glorified, having not responded in either disobedience or obedience to God and therefore not capable of either destiny.
John Chrysostom similarly assumes the innocence of newborn infants, stressing the numerous blessings of baptism beyond merely the forgiveness of sins. A comparison of Chrysostom’s exposition of the honors of baptism conferred upon adults with the benefits of baptism as received by children yields two significant differences. Chrysostom omits both the “remission of sins” and the honor of becoming “instruments of the Spirit” from his list of the benefits of baptism for infants. The child still receives the Holy Spirit at baptism, becoming a “dwelling place of the Holy Spirit,” akin to the adult benefit of becoming a temple of God, but the child does not in infancy become an agent for use by the Holy Spirit, nor is the infant forgiven of guilt. Rather, Chrysostom asserts, such infants are “sinless.” He explains: “You have seen how numerous are the gifts of baptism. Although many men think that the only gift it confers is the remission of sins, we have counted its honors to the number of ten. It is on this account that we baptize even infants, although they are sinless, that they may be given the further gifts of sanctification, justice, filial adoption, and inheritance, that they may be brothers and members of Christ, and become dwelling places of the Spirit.” Thus Chrysostom, following the eastern understanding of the newborn’s innocence, sees in baptism a larger covenantal significance, not the remission of sins. The infant that is baptized receives through the sacrament membership in the body of Christ, the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, adoption and inheritance as a child of God, justice before God and sanctification. The theology of infant baptism in the West, however, developed along a different route.
2. The West: Cyprian & Augustine
Simultaneous to the development of this eastern understanding of infant baptism, a different understanding arose in the West, in Africa, seen in the third century with Cyprian of Carthage. This western tradition focused almost exclusively on the character of baptism as the remission of sins, using the practice of infant baptism as a key rationale for its doctrine of original guilt, a conviction that infants were born into this world receiving from Adam not only the tendency to sin themselves, but the guilt for Adam’s transgression as well. Cyprian explained the significance of a newborn’s baptism as the remission of guilt for Adam’s sin, the child itself having committed no sin. He writes, “The infant approaches that much more easily to the reception of the forgiveness of sins [in baptism] because the sins remitted are not his own, but those of another.”
Central within the development of this western theology of infant baptism was its traducianism adopted from Stoic thought, evident already in the writings of Tertullian. Within this traducian understanding, all of Adam’s progeny were present within his seed when he was expelled from the Garden, the soul being engendered and propagated from one generation to the next along with the body. Every soul exists “in Adam” until cleansed and born again “in Christ.” When Adam was expelled from the Garden, all his descendants, present in Adam’s loins, were likewise expelled, carrying with them the guilt of his transgression.
It was Augustine, in the midst of the Pelagian controversy, who so popularized this understanding of original guilt and infant baptism so as to make it the theology of the Christian West. In a sermon preached at Carthage in 413, Augustine acknowledged that all agree that infants ought to be baptized. The controversy with Pelagius was not about the practice of infant baptism, but about its theology. The Pelagians, Augustine explains, say (in terms not unlike Chrysostom) that infants are baptized for entrance into the Kingdom of Heaven, but not for the remission of sins or in order to be saved—a distinction between the Kingdom of God and salvation that Augustine finds arbitrary. Rather, Augustine argues, the baptism of the infant is for deliverance of the guilt of sin, which must original sin, a conclusion he echoes in his Enchiridion.
3. Other Voices: Origen & Tertullian
Yet not all patristic voices lie within these two major trajectories of doctrinal development. Origen, though writing early and in the East, nevertheless works with a doctrine of original guilt of which infant baptism is a cleansing. Indeed, within Origen’s argument, it would seem that the remission of sins is the only significant benefit of baptism. Origen comments on the newborn infant’s ceremonial purification in his Commentary on Leviticus, making use of the existing practice of infant baptism to bolster his argument for the infant’s “stain of sin and iniquity,” noting that baptism would be “superfluous” were forgiveness not needed. He writes:
He thus shows that by its birth in the flesh every soul contracts a stain of sin and iniquity…. Why should baptism for remission of sins be administered, as is the practice of the Church, even to little children? Undoubtedly, if in little children there was nothing that needs forbearance and pardon, the grace of baptism would be superfluous.
In his Commentary on Romans, Origen echoes this same argument:”No one is free from defilement, not even a day-old child. That is why there is in the Church a tradition, received from the apostles, in accordance with which baptism is conferred on little children. The guardians of the holy mysteries know that every man enters this world with a defilement which must be cleansed by water and the Spirit. That is why this body is called “body of sin,” not that the soul already has another body, a body that has sinned… but because the soul has been placed in this body of sin and humiliation”
Commenting on the Levitical proscription against touching a corpse, Origen comments, “Every man, on entering the world, contracts a blemish…. From the moment he dwells in his mother’s womb…. Every man, then, has been stained at his conception, in his father and in his mother.” Yet despite Origen’s clear conviction that the newborn infant is spiritually unclean, it is unclear whether an historical union with Adam functions for Origen as the cause of this defilement. Origen’s understanding cannot be interpreted in light of Augustine’s later tying of original guilt to Adam’s sin, but for Origen likely reflects either a premundane fall of souls or, as Origen stresses in his Commentary on Romans, the newborn soul’s union to a fallen and defiled body whose lower existence was conditioned by the Fall. Still, what is clear from Origen is his understanding of infant baptism as essentially—and perhaps exclusively—a cleansing rite for the remission of sin.
Tertullian, like Origen, falls outside the main two lines of development in the theology of infant baptism. Tertullian’s rejection of the practice is unique within the surviving history of patristic thought. Yet, to some extent, his rejection of the practice of baptizing infants flows from his combination of an eastern view of childhood innocence with a western understanding of the significance of baptism generally. As with Origen, Cyprian and Augustine, baptism for Tertullian is fundamentally a washing of sins, yet like Chrysostom and Gregory of Nazianzus, Tertullian speaks of the “innocence” of infants. Despite his articulation of a traducian understanding of the soul, Tertullian nevertheless considers infants innocent. In his treatise On Baptism, Tertullian asks, “Why should innocent infancy be in such a hurry to come to the forgiveness of sins? Let them come while they are maturing, while they are learning, while they are being taught what it is they are coming into. Let them become Christians when they have become able to know Christ. The juxtaposition of these two theological convictions—baptism as the forgiveness of sins and the innocence of children (together with Tertullian’s developing moral rigorism)—leads Tertullian to question the wisdom of infant baptism, thinking it more prudent to postpone the practice until it can be more effective.
PART III: Postscript—Protestantism and Infant Baptism
It has been demonstrated that two main theologies of infant baptism are already present in the first four Christian centuries, one centered in the East and one in the West. Yet within the development of this western tradition, a significant crisis took place in the sixteenth century that reopened the question of infant baptism’s significance. Within the most radical sectors of Protestantism, a move away from infant baptism would arise, claiming Tertullian as a patristic precedent. Yet the main line of Reformation thought stood in opposition to this movement, often forcefully—in Zwingli’s Zurich, for example, the earliest Anabaptists were executed by drowning for denying the validity of infant baptism. Yet looking beyond the harsh reality of religious disagreement in sixteenth century Europe, it should be noted that the magisterial reformers broke with the western tradition of linking infant baptism to the doctrine of original guilt. Luther, Calvin and others continued to espouse a doctrine of original guilt, but infant baptism was no longer understood as a cleansing from such defilement.
Indeed, the Protestant reformers stressed the positive benefits of baptism for the infant. In the words of the Puritans’ 1647 Westminster Confession of Faith, the rite solemnly admits the recipient into the visible church, both signifies and seals to him participation in the covenant of grace, ingrafting into Christ, regeneration, remission of sins, and his giving up unto God to newness of life. This grace of baptism is not merely symbolic, being “not only offered, but really exhibited and conferred by the Holy Ghost to such, whether of age or infants, as that grace belongeth unto, according to the counsel of God’s own will, in his appointed time.” Further, while condemning those who neglect baptism, the Confession asserts (against twelve centuries of western development) that regeneration and salvation are possible to those dying without baptism. Thus, while key Protestant distinctives arise—such as the possibility of a disjunction in time between the efficacy of baptism and the time of its administration—the theology proposed for infant baptism by these Western Augustinians is more similar to the theology of Gregory or Chrysostom than to that of Augustine.
This paper has argued that infant baptism was the normative practice in the first four Christian centuries. Having revisited the debate between Joachim Jeremias and Kurt Aland in the modern era, this paper has shown key methodological errors in Aland’s argument that bring his conclusions into question. In the earliest period for which extensive records survive, it is apparent that the church baptized the children of believers as well as believers themselves. For the earlier period for which direct evidence is rarely available, substantial indirect evidence leads one to the conclusion that, given the classical cultural assumption of family solidarity under its parental head, it is unlikely that baptism was denied to the infants of Christians. This ancient practice of infant baptism, however, was interpreted differently in East and West. An eastern tradition understood infant baptism as an ingrafting into Christ and all his benefits, minus forgiveness, which was unnecessary for sinless newborns, while a western tradition understood infants as carrying the guilt of original sin, baptism being understood almost exclusively as a cleansing from original guilt.
These are the evidence on historical basis for the practice of Infant Baptism… write to me for further evidence.
Next Section > Evidence from Archeology and catacombs
For decades, theories and controversies have swirled around the question of the true origins of the Dead Sea Scrolls — one of the greatest archaeological finds in history. We’ll go beyond enclosed glass displays to examine actual scroll fragments up close and explore the caves where they were found. Then, we’ll examine a new clue to the identity of the scrolls’ writers — a 2,000-year-old cup inscribed with a secret text. Could analysis of this finding unravel the mystery.
Vide0 Who wrote Dead Sea Scrolls? National Geography Video
Dr. Bob Cargill excavating. He is an archaeologist from UCLA and is determined to answer once and for all who wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls.
Dr. Bob Cargill in the shrine of the book. He is given unprecedented access to the Scrolls, going beyond the glass to see the real Scrolls close up in the museum vaults and conservation room.
Members of the ascetic Jewish sect, the Essenes, in a cave with the Dead Sea Scrolls. They could have escaped through Jerusalem’s secret tunnels to escape the Romans.
Members of the Essenes in Qumran. As the scrolls were deciphered, Fr. De Vaux excavated Qumran, a site near the scroll caves. Discoveries led him to conclude the scrolls were written there by an ascetic Jewish sect, the Essenes. The idea dominated for 60 years; Qumran became a shrine to the scrolls as the Essenes became international stars. But now the idea that the Essenes wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls is under attack. The inheritor of de Vaux’s archaeological records says he was wrong about Qumran; he mistakenly imagined a monastic community living there.
Members of the Essenes in Qumran. As the scrolls were deciphered, Fr. De Vaux excavated Qumran, a site near the scroll caves. Discoveries led him to conclude the scrolls were written there by an ascetic Jewish sect, the Essenes. The idea dominated for 60 years; Qumran became a shrine to the scrolls as the Essenes became international stars. But now the idea that the Essenes wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls is under attack. The inheritor of de Vaux’s archaeological records says he was wrong about Qumran; he mistakenly imagined a monastic community living there.
Roland de Vaux was a French Dominican priest who led the Catholic team that initially worked on the Dead Sea Scrolls. He was the director of the Ecole Biblique, a French Catholic theological school in East Jerusalem, and he was charged with overseeing research on the scrolls. His team excavated the ancient site of Khirbet Qumran (1951-1956) as well as several caves near Qumran northwest of the Dead Sea.
What is the findings as per National Geography?
Who Wrote the Scrolls? Aired at 28 July 2010.
The Dead Sea Scrolls are some of the founding documents of our civilization. Even though they were discovered over 60 years ago, mystery still surrounds the Scrolls. The Dead Sea Scrolls are widely hailed as the most important archaeological find of modern times, but who wrote them?
- Sixty years ago, the man who led the study of the Scrolls claimed they were written by an obscure Jewish sect, the Essenes, who lived at a place on the Dead Sea called Qumran. But now that theory is being challenged by powerful critics.
- The first of the Scrolls were discovered in a remote mountain cave on the western shores of the Dead Sea in 1947.
- The texts were revealed to be from the Jewish Bible, what Christians later called the Old Testament, and other religious works. These texts were the oldest ever discovered, dating from the third century BCE to the first century of the Common Era.
- Today these Scrolls are housed in Jerusalem’s Israel Museum in a specially built home — the Shrine of the Book. The centerpiece of the Shrine is the Book of Isaiah. It’s 1,000 years older than any other previously known copy.
- The Isaiah Scroll in the Shrine of the Book is a replica. The real treasure, the original Scroll, is kept in a vault.
- The Dead Sea Scrolls contain many biblical texts, but there are also texts, psalms, and prophecies that didn’t survive to be part of the Bible we know. Their discovery transformed our knowledge of Judaism around the time of Jesus.
- Scrolls, the physical manifestation of God’s word, unchanged for thousands of years, have a special place in the Jewish faith.
- Scrolls of the Torah, the first five books of the Jewish Bible, are still written just as they were 2,000 years ago. Today’s scribes use the same animal hide parchment and write exactly the same words as scribes thousands of years ago.
- Two thousand years ago Judaism existed in different forms with important religious divisions between different groups of Jews.
- Forensic science has cut through the debate to reveal that at least a third of the Dead Sea Scrolls were written at Qumran.
- The Scrolls were found in 11 different caves — some right next to the Qumran site, others up to two miles away.
Read more: http://channel.nationalgeographic.com/episode/writing-the-dead-sea-scrolls-5179#tab-facts#ixzz0v70RXwUb
Our cover image this week is powerful, shocking and disturbing. It is a portrait of Aisha, a shy 18-year-old Afghan woman who was sentenced by a Taliban commander to have her nose and ears cut off for fleeing her abusive in-laws. Aisha posed for the picture and says she wants the world to see the effect a Taliban resurgence would have on the women of Afghanistan, many of whom have flourished in the past few years. Her picture is accompanied by a powerful story by our own Aryn Baker on how Afghan women have embraced the freedoms that have come from the defeat of the Taliban — and how they fear a Taliban revival. (See pictures of Afghan women and the return of the Taliban.)
I thought long and hard about whether to put this image on the cover of TIME. First, I wanted to make sure of Aisha’s safety and that she understood what it would mean to be on the cover. She knows that she will become a symbol of the price Afghan women have had to pay for the repressive ideology of the Taliban. We also confirmed that she is in a secret location protected by armed guards and sponsored by the NGO Women for Afghan Women. Aisha will head to the U.S. for reconstructive surgery sponsored by the Grossman Burn Foundation, a humanitarian organization in California. We are supporting that effort. (Watch TIME’s video on photographing Aisha for the cover.)
I’m acutely aware that this image will be seen by children, who will undoubtedly find it distressing. We have consulted with a number of child psychologists about its potential impact. Some think children are so used to seeing violence in the media that the image will have little effect, but others believe that children will find it very scary and distressing — that they will see it, as Dr. Michael Rich, director of the Center on Media and Child Health at Children’s Hospital Boston, said, as “a symbol of bad things that can happen to people.” I showed it to my two young sons, 9 and 12, who both immediately felt sorry for Aisha and asked why anyone would have done such harm to her. I apologize to readers who find the image too strong, and I invite you to comment on the image’s impact. (Comment on this cover.)
But bad things do happen to people, and it is part of our job to confront and explain them. In the end, I felt that the image is a window into the reality of what is happening — and what can happen — in a war that affects and involves all of us. I would rather confront readers with the Taliban’s treatment of women than ignore it. I would rather people know that reality as they make up their minds about what the U.S. and its allies should do in Afghanistan. (See the cover story “Afghan Women and the Return of the Taliban.”)
The much publicized release of classified documents by WikiLeaks has already ratcheted up the debate about the war. Our story and the haunting cover image by the distinguished South African photographer Jodi Bieber are meant to contribute to that debate. We do not run this story or show this image either in support of the U.S. war effort or in opposition to it. We do it to illuminate what is actually happening on the ground. As lawmakers and citizens begin to sort through the information about the war and make up their minds, our job is to provide context and perspective on one of the most difficult foreign policy issues of our time. What you see in these pictures and our story is something that you cannot find in those 91,000 documents: a combination of emotional truth and insight into the way life is lived in that difficult land and the consequences of the important decisions that lie ahead.
To learn more about Aisha and her reconstructive surgery in the U.S., visit www.GrossmanBurnFoundation.org.
Read more: http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,2007269,00.html#ixzz0v6fom0yz