The Development of the Canon of the New Testament

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Early Lists of the Books of the New Testament

Catalogue inserted in codex Claromontanus
The Canon of Cyril of Jerusalem
The Cheltenham Canon
The Canon approved by the Synod of Laodicea
The Canon approved by the 'Apostolic Canons'
The Canon of Gregory of Nazianus
The Canon of Amphilochius of Iconium
The Canon approved by the third Synod of Carthage
The Decretum Gelasianum
Catalogue of the Sixty Canonical Books
The Stichometery of Nicephorus

The Canon approved by the Synod of Laodicea (~363 CE)

A synod held about 363 in Laodicea took some action regarding the canon, but its precise decision is unknown to us. At the close of the decrees (or 'canons' as such decrees were commonly called) issued by the thirty or so clerics in attendance, we read (Canon 59) that only canonical books should be read in the church. Thus far the decree is found in all accounts of the synod with but trifling variations. In the later manuscripts, however this is followed by a list of books (Canon 60). The New Testament list is the same as the present one, except for the Revelation of John:

Canon 59. Let no private psalms nor any uncanonical books be read in the church, but only the canonical ones of the New and Old Testament.

Canon 60. [After listing the books of the Old Testament] And these are the books of the New Testament: four Gospels, according to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John; the Acts of the Apostles, seven Catholic epistles, namely, one of James, two of Peter, three of John, one of Jude, fourteen epistles of Paul, one to the Romans, two to the Corinthians, one to the Galatians, one to the Ephesians, one to the Philippians, one to the Colossians, two to the Thessalonians, one to the Hebrews, two to Timothy, one to Titus, and one to Philemon.

Since the list is also omitted in most of the Latin and Syriac versions of the decrees, most scholars consider them to have been added to the report sometime after 363. Probably some later editor of the report felt that the books which might be read should be named. In any case, it is clear that the Synod of Laodicea attempted no new legislation. The decree adopted at this gathering merely recognizes the fact that there are already in existence certain books, generally recognized as suitable to be read in the public worship of the churches, which are known as the 'canonical' books. If the catalogues are genuine, they simply give the names of these books, already received as authoritative in the churches that were represented at the synod.

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