Historic Canons of synods and councils:

1.      The Muratorian Canon

2.      The Canon of Origen (A.D. C. 185-254)

3.      The Canon of Eusebius of Caesarea (A.D. 265-340)

4.      A Canon of Uncertain Date And Provenance Inserted In Codex Claromontanus

5.      The Canon of Cyril of Jerusalem (C. A.D. 350)

6.      The Cheltenham Canon (C. A.D. 360)

7.      The Canon Approved By The Synod of Laodicea (C. A.D. 363)

8.      The Canon of Athanasius (A.D. 367)

9.      The Canon Approved By The `Apostolic Canons' (C. A.D. 380)

10.  The Canon of Gregory of Nazianzus (A.D. 329-89)

11.  The Canon of Amphilochius of Iconium (D. After 394)

12.  The Canon Approved By The Third Synod of Carthace (A.D. 397)

By Bruce M. Merger

A conservative, bible believing perspective!

God's providence gave us the 27 book New Testament Canon, not the church. God, not men decided the canon. This providence does not mean that church leaders were inspired in their selecting the canon, only that God had his eye on the scriptures the whole time and brought about His will to form the Bible we see today!

The canon of the New Testament

Early Lists of the Books of the New Testament

Bruce M. Merger

Go to: "Canon of the Bible" Home Page


Historic Canons of synods and councils:

By Bruce M. Merger, The canon of the New Testament, 1987, Appendix IV: Early Lists of the Books of the New Testament

1.      The Muratorian Canon

2.      The Canon of Origen (A.D. C. 185-254)

3.      The Canon of Eusebius of Caesarea (A.D. 265-340)

4.      A Canon of Uncertain Date And Provenance Inserted In Codex Claromontanus

5.      The Canon of Cyril of Jerusalem (C. A.D. 350)

6.      The Cheltenham Canon (C. A.D. 360)

7.      The Canon Approved By The Synod of Laodicea (C. A.D. 363)

8.      The Canon of Athanasius (A.D. 367)

9.      The Canon Approved By The `Apostolic Canons' (C. A.D. 380)

10.  The Canon of Gregory of Nazianzus (A.D. 329-89)

11.  The Canon of Amphilochius of Iconium (D. After 394)

12.  The Canon Approved By The Third Synod of Carthace (A.D. 397)




1.      THE following translation usually follows the amended text edited by Hans Lietzmann, Das Muratorische Fragment and die Monarchianischen Prologue zu den Evangelien (Kleine Texte, i; Bonn, 1902; 2nd ed., Berlin, 1933). Owing to the wretched state of the Latin text, it is sometimes difficult to know what the writer intended; several phrases, therefore, are provided with alternative renderings (enclosed within parentheses). Translational expansions are enclosed within square brackets. The numerals indicate the lines of the original text. For a discussion, see chap. VIII. i above, where freer renderings are sometimes given in place of the following literalistic translation.

2.      ... at which nevertheless he was present, and so he placed [them in his narrative]. 1 (2) The third book of the Gospel is that according to Luke. (3) Luke, the well-known physician, after the ascension of Christ, (4-5) when Paul had taken him with him as one zealous for the law,2    (6) composed it in his own name, according to [the general] belief.' Yet he himself had not (7) seen the Lord in the flesh; and therefore, as he was able to ascertain events, (8) so indeed he begins to tell the story from the birth of John. (9) The fourth of the Gospels is that of John, [one] of the disciples. (10) To his fellow disciples and bishops, who had been urging him [to write], (11) he said, `Fast with me from today for three days, and what (12) will be revealed to each one (13) let us tell it to one another.' In the same night it was revealed (t4) to Andrew, [one] of the apostles, (15-16) that John should write down all things in his own name while all of them should review it. And so, though various (17) elements may be taught in the individual books of the Gospels, (18) nevertheless this makes no difference to the faith of believers, since by the one sovereign Spirit all things (2o) have been declared in all [the Gospels]: concerning the (21) nativity, concerning the passion, concerning the resurrection, (22) concerning life with his disciples, (23) and concerning his twofold coming; (24) the first in lowliness when he was despised, which has taken place, (25) the second glorious in royal power, (26) which is still in the future. What (27) marvel is it, then, if John so consistently (28) mentions these particular points also in his Epistles, (29) saying about himself `What we have seen with our eyes (30) and heard with our ears and our hands (31) have handled, these things we have written to you'?' (32) For in this way he professes [himself] to be not only an eye-witness and hearer, (33) but also a writer of all the marvelous deeds of the Lord, in their order. (34) Moreover, the acts of all the apostles (35) were written in one book. For `most excellent Theophilus" Luke compiled (36) the individual events that took place in his presence (37) as he plainly shows by omitting the martyrdom of Peter (38) as well as the departure of Paul from the city [of Rome] (39) when he journeyed to Spain. As for the Epistles Of (40-1) Paul, they themselves make clear to those desiring to understand, which ones [they are], from what place, or for what reason they were sent. (42) First of all, to the Corinthians, prohibiting their heretical schisms; (43) next to the Galatians, against circumcision; (44-6) then to the Romans he wrote at length, explaining the order (or, plan) of the Scriptures, and also that Christ is their principle (or, main theme). It is necessary (47) for us to discuss these one by one, since the blessed (48) apostle Paul himself, following the example of his predecessor (49-50) John, writes by name to only seven churches in the following sequence: to the Corinthians (51) first, to the Ephesians second, to the Philippians third, (52) to the Colossians fourth, to the Galatians fifth, (53) to the Thessalonians sixth, to the Romans (54-5) seventh. It is true that he writes once more to the Corinthians and to the Thessalonians for the sake of admonition, (56-7), yet it is clearly recognizable that there is one Church spread throughout the whole extent of the earth. For John also in the (58) Apocalypse, though he writes to seven churches, (59-6o) nevertheless speaks to all. [Paul also wrote] out of affection and love one to Philemon, one to Titus, and two to Timothy; and these are held sacred (62-3) in the esteem of the Church catholic for the regulation of ecclesiastical discipline. There is current also [an epistle] to (64) the Laodiceans, [and] another to the Alexandrians, [both] forged in Paul's (65) name to [further] the heresy of Marcion, and several others (66) which cannot be received into the catholic church (67)-for ii is not fitting that gall be mixed with honey. (68) Moreover, the Epistle of Jude and two of the above-mentioned (or, bearing the name on John are counted (or, used) in the catholic [Church];' and [the book of] Wisdom, (70) written by the friends of Solomon in his honour. (71) We receive only the apocalypses of John and Peter, (72) though some of us are not willing that the latter be read in church. (73) But Hermas wrote the Shepherd (74) very recently, in our times, in the city of Rome, (75) while bishop Pius, his brother, was occupying the [episcopal] chair (76) of the church of the city of Rome. (77) And therefore it ought indeed to be read; but (78) it cannot be read publicly to the people in church either among (79) the prophets, whose number is complete,e or among (8o) the apostles, for it is after [their] time. (81) But we accept nothing whatever of Arsinous or Valentinus or Miltiades, (82) who also composed (83) a new book of psalms for Marcion, (84-5) together with Basilides, the Asian founder of the Cataphrygians....



1.      From the composite account put together by Eusebius in his Ecclesiastical History, vi. xxv. 3-14. For a discussion, see chap. V. Iv. 3 above.

2.      In the first book of his [Origen's] Commentary on the Gospel according to Matthew, defending the canon of the Church, he testifies that he knows only four Gospels, writing somewhat as follows:

3.      (4) `Among the four Gospels, which are the only indisputable ones in the Church of God under heaven, I have learned by tradition that first was written that according to Matthew, who was once a tax collector but afterwards an apostle of Jesus Christ, who published it for those who from Judaism came to believe, composed as it was in the Hebrew language. (5) Secondly, that according to Mark, who composed it in accordance with the instructions of Peter, who in the catholic Epistle acknowledges him as a son, saying, "She that is in Babylon, elect together with you, salutes you, and so does Mark, my son" (I Pet. v. 13)- (6) And thirdly, that according to Luke, the Gospel commended by Paul (cf. 2 Cor. viii. 18) and composed for those who from the Gentiles [came to believe]. After them all, that according to John.' (7) And in the fifth book of his Expositions on the Gospel according to John, the same person says this with reference to the Epistles of the apostles: 'But he who was made sufficient to become a minister of the new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit (cf. 2 Cor. iii. 6), that is, Paul, who "fully preached the gospel from Jerusalem and round about even unto Illyricum" (Rom. xv. tg), did not write to all the churches which he had instructed; and even to those to which he wrote he sent but a few lines. (8) And Peter, on whom the Church of Christ is built, "against which the gates of hell shall not prevail" (Matt. xvi. t8), has left one acknowledged Epistle; possibly also a second, but this is disputed. (g) Why need I speak of him who leaned back on Jesus' breast (John xiii. 25), John, who has left behind one Gospel, though he confessed that he could write so many that even the world itself could not contain them (John xxi. 25)? And he wrote also the Apocalypse, being ordered to keep silence and not to write the voices of the seven thunders (Rev. x. 4). (t o) He has left also an Epistle of a very few lines; and, it may be, a second and a third; for not all say that these are genuine but the two of them are not a hundred lines long'. (i i) In addition he makes the following statements concerning the Epistle to the Hebrews, in his Homilies upon it: 'That the character of the diction of the Epistle entitled "To the Hebrews" has not the apostle's rudeness in speech, who acknowledged himself to be rude in speech (2 Cor. xi. 6), that is, in style, but that the Epistle is better Greek in the framing of its diction, will be admitted by everyone who is able to discern differences of style. (12) But again, on the other hand, that the thoughts of the Epistle are admirable, and not inferior to the acknowledged writings of the apostle, this also everyone who carefully examines the apostolic text will admit'. ( 13) Further on he adds: 'If I gave my opinion, I should say that the thoughts are those of the apostle, but the style and composition belong to some one who remembered the apostle's teachings and wrote down at his leisure what had been said by his teacher. Therefore, if any church holds that this Epistle is by Paul, let it be commended for this also. For it is not without reason that the men of old time have handed it down as Paul's. (14) But who wrote the Epistle, in truth, God knows. Yet the account that has reached us [is twofold], some saying that Clement, bishop of the Romans, wrote the Epistle, and others, that it was Luke, the one who wrote the Gospel and the Acts'.



1.      From Eusebius' Ecclesiastical History, in. xxv. I-7.

2.      At this point it seems appropriate to summarize the writings of the New Testament which have already been mentioned. In the first place must be put the holy quaternion of the Gospels, which are followed by the book of the Acts of the Apostles. (2) After this must be reckoned the Epistles of Paul; next in order the extant former Epistle of John, and likewise the Epistle of Peter must be recognized. After these must be put, if it really seems right, the Apocalypse of John, concerning which we shall give the different opinions at the proper time. (3) These, then, [are to be placed] among the recognized books. Of the disputed books, which are nevertheless familiar to the majority, there are extant the Epistle of James, as it is called; and that of Jude; and the second Epistle of Peter; and those that are called the Second and Third of John, whether they belong to the evangelist or to another person of the same name. (4) Among the spurious books must be reckoned also the Acts of Paul, and the Shepherd, as it is called, and the Apocalypse of Peter; and, in addition to these, the extant Epistle of Barnabas, and the Teachings of the Apostles, as it is called. And, in addition, as I said, the Apocalypse of John, if it seem right. (This last, as I said, is rejected by some, but others count it among the recognized books.) (5) And among these some have counted also the Gospel of the Hebrews, with which those of the Hebrews who have accepted Christ take a special pleasure. (6) Now all these would be among the disputed books; but nevertheless we have felt compelled to make this catalogue of them, distinguishing between those writings which, according to the tradition of the Church, are true and genuine and recognized, from the others which differ from them in that they are not canonical [lit., en-testamented], but disputed, yet nevertheless are known to most churchmen. [And this we have done] in order that we might be able to know both these same writings and also those which the heretics put forward under the name of the apostles; including, for instance, such books as the Gospels of Peter, of Thomas, of Matthias, or even of some others besides these, and the Acts of Andrew and John and the other apostles. To none of these has any who belonged to the succession of ecclesiastical writers ever thought it right to refer in his writings. (7) Moreover, the character of the style also is far removed from apostolic usage, and the thought and purport of their contents are completely out of harmony with true orthodoxy and clearly show themselves that they are the forgeries of heretics. For this reason they ought not even to be reckoned among the spurious books, but are to be cast aside as altogether absurd and impious.




1.      In the sixth-century codex Claromontanus (D), a Greek and Latin manu-script of the Epistles of Paul, someone placed between Philemon and Hebrews a Latin list of the books of the Bible. Zahn (Geschichte, ii, pp. 157-7s) and Harnack (Chronologie, ii, pp. 84-8) were of the opinion that this list had been drawn up originally in Greek at Alexandria or its neighbour-hood about A.D. 300. J. Weiss suggested a North-African origin (.Zeitschrift fidr wissenschaftliche Theologie, xxx [18871, pp. 169f]

a.       Four Gospels: Matthew, 26oo lines John, 2ooo lines Mark, 16oo lines Luke, 2900 lines Epistles of Paul:

b.      To the Romans, 1040 lines

c.       The First to the Corinthians, Io6o lines

d.      The Second to the Corinthians, 70 (sic) lines To the Galatians, 350 lines

e.      To the Ephesians, 365 lines The First to Timothy, tog lines The Second to Timothy, 289 lines To Titus, 140 lines

f.        To the Colossians, 251 lines To Philemon, 50 lines

g.       -The First to (sic) Peter,' 2oo lines

h.      The Second to (sic) Peter, 140 lines Of James, 220 lines

i.         The First Epistle of John, 220

j.        The Second Epistle of John, 20

k.       The Third Epistle of John, 20

l.         The Epistle of Jude, 6o lines

m.    -Epistle of Barnabas, 850 lines

n.      The Revelation of John, 1200

o.      The Acts of the Apostles, 26oo

p.      -The Shepherd, 4000 lines

q.      -The Acts of Paul, 3560 lines

r.        -The Apocalypse of Peter, 270

2.      The dash before 1 Peter may be only a 'paragraphus', or Greek paragraph mark, to suggest that t Peter and the items that follow are not part of the 'Epistles of Paul'.

3.      the other four dashes lower in the list identify works of doubtful or disputed canonicity.



1.      From Cyril's Catechetical Lectures, iv. 36. For a discussion, see pp. 2og-1o above.

2.      Then of the New Testament there are four Gospels only, for the rest have false titles and are harmful. The Manichaeans also wrote a Gospel according to Thomas, which being smeared with the fragrance of the name `Gospel' destroys the souls of those who are rather simple-minded. Receive also the Acts of the Twelve Apostles; and in addition to these the seven Catholic Epistles of James, Peter, John, and Jude; and as a seal upon them all, and the latest work of disciples, the fourteen Epistles of Paul. But let all the rest be put aside in a secondary rank. And whatever books are not read in the churches, do not read these even by yourself, as you have already heard [me say concerning the Old Testament apocrypha].



1.      From a list contained in a tenth-century Latin manuscript of miscellaneous content (chiefly patristic) that once belonged to the library of Thomas Phillipps at Cheltenham, England; it was identified in 1886 by Theodor Mommsen. For a discussion, see pp. 231-2 above.

2.      [An Old Testament list is followed by:]

3.      Likewise the catalogue of the New Testament:

4.      Four Gospels:

a.       Matthew, 2700 lines

b.      Mark, 1700 lines

c.       John, 1800 lines

d.      Luke, 3300 lines

5.      All the lines make 10,000 lines Epistles of Paul, 13 in number

6.      The Acts of the Apostles, 3600 lines

7.      [An Old Testament list is followed by:]

8.      The Apocalypse, 1800 lines

9.      Three Epistles of John, 350 lines

10.  One only

11.  Two Epistles of Peter, 300 lines

12.  One only

13.  Since the index of lines [= stichometry] in the city of Rome is not clearly given, and elsewhere too through avarice for gain they do not preserve it in full, I have gone through the books singly, counting sixteen syllables to the line, and have appended to every book the number of Virgilian hexameters.



1.      The absence of Canon 6o in a variety of Greek, Latin, and Syriac manuscripts makes it probable that it was a somewhat later appendage, clarifying Canon 59. For a discussion, see p. 2co above.

2.      Can. 59. Let no private psalms nor any uncanonical books be read in church, but only the canonical ones of the New and Old Testament. Can. 6o. [After listing the books of the Old Testament, the canon continues:] 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.



1.      From Athanasius' Thirty-Ninth Festal Epistle (A.D. 367). For a discussion, see pp. 210-12 above.

2.      ... Again [after a list of the Old Testament books] it is not tedious to speak of the [books] of the New Testament. These are, the four Gospels, according to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. After these, the Acts of the Apostles and Epistles called Catholic, of the seven apostles: of James, one; of Peter, two; of John, three; after these, one of Jude. In addition, there are fourteen Epistles of Paul the apostle, written in this order: the first, to the Romans; then, two to the Corinthians; after these, to the Galatians; next, to the Ephesians; then, to the Philippians; then, to the Colossians; after these, two of the Thessalonians; and that to the Hebrews; and again, two to Timothy; one to Titus; and lastly, that to Philemon. And besides, the Revelation of John.

3.      These are fountains of salvation, that he who thirsts may be satisfied with the living words they contain. In these alone the teaching of godliness is proclaimed. Let no one add to these; let nothing be taken away from them ...



1.      A series of eighty-five Canons attributed to the apostles was compiled in the late fourth century by the redactor of the Apostolic Constitutions, of which it forms the concluding chapter; see pp. 216 and 225 above.

2.      Can. 85. Let the following books be esteemed venerable and holy by all of you, both clergy and laity. [A list of books of the Old Testament ... ] And our sacred books, that is, of the New Testament, are the four Gospels, of Matthew, Mark, Luke, John; the fourteen Epistles of Paul; two Epistles of Peter; three of John; one of James; one of Jude; two Epistles of Clement; and the Constitutions dedicated to you, the bishops, by me, Clement, in eight books, which it is not appropriate to make public before all, because of the mysteries contained in them; and the Acts of us, the Apostles.



1.      This canon, included among Gregory's poems (1. xii. 5 ff.), was ratified by the Trullan Synod in 692. It is in iambic verse, the lineation of which (but not the rhythm) is preserved, so far as possible, in the translation. Only the New Testament part is given here. For a discussion, see p. 212 above.

2.      [List of books of the Old Testament.... ]

3.      But now count also [the books] of the New Mystery;

4.      Matthew indeed wrote for the Hebrews the wonderful works of Christ,

5.      And Mark for Italy, Luke for Greece,

6.      John, the great preacher, for all, walking in heaven. Then the Acts of the wise apostles,

7.      And fourteen Epistles of Paul,

8.      And seven Catholic [Epistles], of which James is one, Two of Peter, three ofJohn again.

9.      And Jude's is the seventh. You have all.

10.  If there is any besides these, it is not among the genuine [books].



1.      This canon, like the preceding, is in iambic verse; it was written for Seleucus, a friend of Amphilochius. Only the New Testament part (lines 289-319) is given here. For a discussion, see pp. 212-3 above.

2.      [List of books of the Old Testament.... ]

3.      It is time for me to speak of the books of the New Testament. Receive only four evangelists:

a.       Matthew, then Mark, to whom, having added Luke As third, count John as fourth in time,

b.      But first in height of teachings,

c.       For I call this one rightly a son of thunder, Sounding out most greatly with the word of God.

d.      And receive also the second book of Luke,

4.      That of the catholic Acts of the Apostles. Add next the chosen vessel,

a.       The herald of the Gentiles, the apostle

5.      Paul, having written wisely to the churches Twice seven Epistles: to the Romans one,

a.       To which one must add two to the Corinthians,

b.      That to the Galatians, and that to the Ephesians, after which That in Philippi, then the one written

c.       To the Colassians,1a two to the Thessalonians, Two to Timothy, and to Titus and the Philemon, One each, and one to the Hebrews.

d.      But some say the one to the Hebrews is spurious, not saying well, for the grace is genuine.

6.      Well, what remains? Of the Catholic Epistles Some say we must receive seven, but others say Only three should be received-that of James, one, And one of Peter, and those of John, one.

a.       And some receive three [of John], and besides these, two of Peter, and that of Jude a seventh.

7.      And again the Revelation of John, Some approve, but the most say it is spurious, This is perhaps the most reliable (lit., most unfalsified) canon of the divinely inspired Scriptures.



1.      The first council that accepted the present canon of the books of the New Testament was the Synod of Hippo Regius in North Africa (A.D. 393); the acts of this council, however, are lost. A brief summary of the acts was read at and accepted by the Synod of Carthage, A.D. 397.

2.      Can. 24. Besides the canonical Scriptures, nothing shall be read in church under the name of divine Scriptures. Moreover, the canonical Scriptures are these: [then follows a list of Old Testament books]. The [books of the] New Testament: the Gospels, four books; the Acts of the Apostles, one book; the Epistles of Paul, thirteen; of the same to the Hebrews, one Epistle; of Peter, two; of John, apostle, three; of James, one; of Jude, one; the Revelation of John. Concerning the confirmation of this canon, the transmarine Church shall be consulted. On the anniversaries of martyrs, their acts shall also be read.

3.      According to Zahn,1' in 419 another Synod held at Carthage gave the concluding words in the following form:

4.      ... the Revelation of John, one book. Let this be sent to our brother and fellow-bishop, Boniface [of Rome], and to the other bishops of those parts, that they may confirm this canon, for these are the things that we have received from our fathers to be read in church.


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