Canon Law

General Information

Canon, in Christian usage, is a rule or standard. By the middle of the 3rd century the word had come to refer to those doctrines recognized as orthodox by the Christian church. It was later also used to designate collectively the list of books accepted as Scripture (see Bible).

The term canon is also used to denote the catalog or register of saints. The use of the plural form to denote church precepts originated about the year 300; this form began to be applied specifically to the decrees of the church councils about the middle of the 4th century (see Canon Law). The term is also applied to the part of the Roman Catholic Mass that opens with the Preface, or prayer of thanksgiving, and closes just before the recitation of the Lord's Prayer. In some Christian churches, canon is also an ecclesiastical title given to the clergy attached to a cathedral church or to certain types of priests living under a semimonastic rule, such as the Augustinians.

Text Font Face
Text Size
(for printing)
BELIEVE Religious Information Source - By Alphabet Our List of 2,300 Religious Subjects


Canon of the Bible

Advanced Information

The term "canon" in Christianity refers to a group of books acknowledged by the early church as the rule of faith and practice. Deriving from the Greek kanon, which designated a carpenter's rule (possibly borrowed from a Hebrew term, qaneh, referring to a measuring reed six cubits long), the word has been used to identify those books considered to be spiritually superlative, by which all others were measured and found to be of secondary value in general church use.

Both Jews and Christians have canons of scripture. The Jewish canon consists of thirty-nine books; the Christian consists of sixty-six for Protestants and eighty for Catholics (whose canon includes the Apocrypha, regarded by most as of deuterocanonical status). Sacred books are found in all literate religions. The book is generally secondary to the faith, the book or books being a deposit of the faith. The use of a canon varies in world religions, for liturgy, renewal of faith, evangelism, or authority in faith and practice.

The process by which these books came to be generally regarded as exclusively authoritative is not known for either the Hebrew or Christian canon. That it transpired under the influence of the Spirit of God is commonly accepted among Christian people. Inspired literature formed only a part of the total religious literature of God's people at any time in their history, and only a portion of the inspired literature finally emerged as canonical in all parts of the ancient world. All inspired literature was authoritative, but it was not all equally beneficial to local groups and thus did not achieve universal or empire-wide acceptance. That is to say, local lists of books were not necessarily identical with the general list, the canon, which eventually consisted of the books common to all the local lists.

OT Canon

The faith of Israel existed independently of a book for hundreds of years between the time of Abraham and Moses. None of the patriarchs before Moses is recorded as having written sacred literature, although the art of writing was well developed at that time in the homeland of Abraham, as the recently discovered Ebla tablets have dramatically reaffirmed. The Sumerians and Babylonians already had highly developed law codes, and accounts of such events as the great flood appear in their literature. Moses, however, was the first known Hebrew to commit sacred history to writing (Exod. 24:4, 7).

Subsequent to the composition of the Pentateuch, it is recorded that Joshua wrote in the book of the law of God (Josh. 24:26). The law was always considered to be from God (Deut. 31:24; Josh. 1:8). The other two divisions of the Hebrew canon, the prophets and writings, were eventually selected out of a larger literature, some of which is mentioned in the OT itself ("book of the Wars of the Lord," Num. 21:14; "book of Jasher," Josh. 10:13; "book of the Acts of Solomon," 1 Kings 11:41; "book of Samuel the seer, book of Nathan the prophet, book of Gad the seer," 1 Chr. 29:29, etc.; fifteen or more such books are named in the OT).

The oldest surviving list of the cannonical scriptures of the OT comes from about A.D. 170, the product of a Christian scholar named Melito of Sardis, who made a trip to Palestine to determine both the order and number of books in the Hebrew Bible. Neither his order nor his contents agree exactly with our modern English Bibles. There is no agreement in order or content in the existing manuscripts of Hebrew, Greek, or Latin Bibles. The modern English Protestant Bible follows the order of the Latin Vulgate and the content of the Hebrew Bible. It is important to remember that the OT was more than a thousand years in writing, the oldest parts being written by Moses and the latest after the Babylonian exile. During the entire period of biblical history, therefore, the Jews lived their faith without a closed canon of Scriptures, such a canon therefore not being essential to the practice of the Jewish religion during that time. Why then were the books finally collected into a canon? They were brought together evidently as an act of God's providence, historically prompted by the emergence of apocryphal and pseudepigraphical literature in the intertestamental period and the increasing need to know what the limits of divine revelation were. By the time of Jesus the OT, called Tanaach by modern Judaism, consisted of the law, prophets, and writings (the first book of which was the Psalms, Luke 24:44). Opinions about the full extent of the cannon seem not to have been finalized until sometime after the first century A.D.

NT Canon

The earliest list of NT books containing only our twenty-seven appeared in A.D. 367 in a letter of Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria. The order was Gospels, Acts, General Epistles, Pauline Epistles, Revelation. In the first century Peter spoke of Paul writing "in all his letters" (II Pet. 3:16), and by the early second century the letters of Ignatius were being collected. Evidence of exclusive collections being made in the second century is seen in the writings of Justin Martyr, who argues for only our four Gospels. Discussion about authorship and authority of various letters appears in writers of the second century, and one canonical list which has been dated from the second to the fourth century, the Muratorian Canon, differentiates between books that are suitable to be read in worship and those that should be read only in private devotion.

The fact that other books formed a larger deposit out of which the twenty-seven eventually emerged is seen in the reference to a prior letter to the Corinthians in 1 Cor. 5:9, a letter to the Laodiceans in Col. 4:16, and the inclusion of 1 and II Clement in the fifth century manuscript of the Greek NT, Codex Alexandrinus, as well as Barnabas and Hermas in the fourth century Codex Sinaiticus. Eusebius cited a letter from the second century Bishop of Corinth, Dionysius, stating that Clement's letter was read in the church there "from time to time for our admonition" (Ecclesiastical History IV.23.11).

The formation of the NT canon was not a conciliar decision. The earliest ecumenical council, Nicaea in 325, did not discuss the canon. The first undisputed decision of a council on the canon seems to be from Carthage in 397, which decreed that nothing should be read in the church under the name of the divine Scriptures except the canonical writings. Then the twenty seven books of the NT are listed as the canonical writings. The council could list only those books that were generally regarded by the consensus of use as properly a canon. The formation of the NT canon must, therefore, be regarded as a process rather than an event, and a historical rather than a biblical matter. The coming of the Word of God in print is only slightly more capable of explication than the coming of the Word of God incarnate.

J R McRay
(Elwell Evangelical Dictionary)

B.F. Westcott, A General Survey of the History of the Canon of the NT; C.R. Gregory, The Canon and Text of the NT; A. Souter, The Text and Canon of the NT; E.J. Goodspeed, The Formation of the NT; R. M. Grant, The Formation of the NT; P.R. Ackroyd and C.F. Evans, eds., The Cambridge History of the Bible, I; H. von Campenhausen, The Formation of the Christian Bible; R.L. Harris, Inspiration and Canonicity of the Bible; W.R. Farmer, Jesus and the Gospel; W. Brueggemann, The Creative Word; J.A. Sanders, Torah and Canon and "Text and Canon: Concepts and Methods," JBL 98:5-29; A.C. Sundberg, Jr., "Canon Muratori: A Fourth Century List," HTR 66:1-41; S.Z. Leiman, The Canon and Massorah of the Hebrew Bible; H.E. Ryle, The Canon of the OT.


Advanced Information

This word is derived from a Hebrew and Greek word denoting a reed or cane. Hence it means something straight, or something to keep straight; and hence also a rule, or something ruled or measured. It came to be applied to the Scriptures, to denote that they contained the authoritative rule of faith and practice, the standard of doctrine and duty. A book is said to be of canonical authority when it has a right to take a place with the other books which contain a revelation of the Divine will. Such a right does not arise from any ecclesiastical authority, but from the evidence of the inspired authorship of the book.

The canonical (i.e., the inspired) books of the Old and New Testaments, are a complete rule, and the only rule, of faith and practice. They contain the whole supernatural revelation of God to men. The New Testament Canon was formed gradually under divine guidance. The different books as they were written came into the possession of the Christian associations which began to be formed soon after the day of Pentecost; and thus slowly the canon increased till all the books were gathered together into one collection containing the whole of the twenty-seven New Testament inspired books.

Historical evidence shows that from about the middle of the second century this New Testament collection was substantially such as we now possess. Each book contained in it is proved to have, on its own ground, a right to its place; and thus the whole is of divine authority. The Old Testament Canon is witnessed to by the New Testament writers. Their evidence is conclusive. The quotations in the New from the Old are very numerous, and the references are much more numerous. These quotations and references by our Lord and the apostles most clearly imply the existence at that time of a well-known and publicly acknowledged collection of Hebrew writings under the designation of "The Scriptures;" "The Law and the Prophets and the Psalms;" "Moses and the Prophets," etc.

The appeals to these books, moreover, show that they were regarded as of divine authority, finally deciding all questions of which they treat; and that the whole collection so recognized consisted only of the thirty-nine books which we now posses. Thus they endorse as genuine and authentic the canon of the Jewish Scriptures. The Septuagint Version (q.v.) also contained every book we now have in the Old Testament Scriptures. As to the time at which the Old Testament canon was closed, there are many considerations which point to that of Ezra and Nehemiah, immediately after the return from Babylonian exile.

(Easton Illustrated Dictionary)


Canon Law

General Information

Canon Law (Greek kanon,"rule" or "measure"), usually, the body of legislation of various Christian churches dealing with matters of constitution or discipline. Although all religions have regulations, the term applies mainly to the formal systems of the Roman Catholic, Orthodox, and Anglican communions. It is distinguished from civil or secular law, but conflict can arise in areas of mutual concern (for example, marriage and divorce).


In its origins canon law consisted of the enactments of councils or synods of bishops, and the Anglican and Orthodox churches so restrict it today. The Roman Catholic church also recognizes the authority of the pope to make universal law and that certain customary practices may acquire the force of law. The Roman Catholic church has by far the most elaborate body of law and, to provide training in it, has chartered graduate faculties in a number of universities throughout the world. The doctorate in canon law requires at least four years of study beyond the bachelor of arts degree. Each diocese has a church court or tribunal staffed by canon lawyers. In modern times church courts have dealt almost exclusively with marriage nullity cases.

The full range of canon law in contemporary times may be seen in the Roman Catholic church, which promulgated a revised code for its Latin, or Western, members in 1983 and has projected a first-ever code for its Eastern communicants. The planned Lex Fundamentalis setting forth the constitutive or organizational principles common to both proved to be inopportune. The 1983 (Latin) Code of Canon Law promulgated by the authority of Pope John Paul II consists of seven books for a total of 1752 canons. Each book is divided into titles, but in the larger books the titles are grouped in parts and even in sections.

Laws of the church as well as those of the state bind their subjects in conscience. The obligation in conscience does not arise immediately from the laws themselves but from the divine plan, in which people are envisioned as living in both a civil and an ecclesiastical society. Church and state are the judges of what is necessary to realize the common good. Their laws carry a legal obligation of greater or lesser weight, depending on the importance of specific statutes in achieving that end.

The Code of Canon Law itself lays down certain principles of interpretation. Laws that impose a penalty, for example, or restrict the free exercise of rights, or contain an exception from the law are to be strictly interpreted. In canon law, unlike common law, an interpretation given by a court in a judicial sentence does not set a precedent; it has no force of law and binds only those persons affected. For an authentic interpretation of the code, a special Roman commission was established in 1917.


The beginning of canon law may be seen in the New Testament (see Acts 15; 1 Corinthians 11). During the 2nd and 3rd centuries a number of church orders (for example, the Didache and the Apostolic Tradition) described as normative certain customary practices of the community. Canon law in the sense of enacted legislation originated in the 4th-century regional councils held in Asia Minor. The enactments of these councils (Ancyra, Neocaesarea, Antioch, Gangra, and Laodicea), together with those of the ecumenical councils of Nicaea (325), Constantinople (present-day stanbul) (381), and Chalcedon (451), formed the nucleus of subsequent collections. They dealt with the structure of the church (the provincial and patriarchal organization), the dignity of the clergy, the process of reconciling sinners, and Christian life in general.

The oldest Greek canonical collection preserved in the original text is the Synagoge Canonum (550?) in 50 titles by Johannes Scholasticus. Instead of a chronological arrangement, the canons are grouped systematically according to subject matter. Another innovation was the accordance of canonical authority to rulings of church fathers, especially St. Basil. The Council of Trullo (692), in giving formal approval to the preceding conciliar legislation and patristic writings, established the basic code for the Eastern churches that is still normative for the Orthodox.

In the West, the most important canonical collection of the early centuries was made in the 6th century by Dionysius Exiguus. He translated into Latin the canons of the Eastern councils and added 39 papal decretals. The rulings of the popes were thus put on a level with conciliar law. After the disintegration of the Roman Empire, canon law developed independently in the different kingdoms. National collections were made in which local legislation, intermingled with elements of Germanic law, were added to the ancient code. Because conciliar activity was particularly intense in Spain, the collection known as the Hispana (later called the Isidoriana after St. Isidore of Seville) proved to be outstanding. Of great significance for the future was the institution of the practice of private penance by the Irish monks.

Collections made at the time of Charlemagne (800?) and the Gregorian reform (1050?) reflect the attempt to restore traditional discipline. Great confusion persisted, however, insofar as certain practices accepted in the Germanic law and the penitentials (for example, remarriage after adultery) were in conflict with the program of the reformers. Ivo of Chartres prepared (1095?) a set of rules and principles for interpreting and harmonizing texts. The actual work of harmonization was done (1140?) by Gratian, who is called the father of the science of canon law. Shortly after the revival of Roman law studies at the University of Bologna, Gratian collected all the canon law from the earliest popes and councils up to the Second Lateran Council (1139) in his Decretum, or Concordance of Discordant Canons. With its appearance the period of the ius antiquum came to a close.

The scientific study of law stimulated by the Decretum encouraged the papacy to resolve disputed points and supply needed legislation, thus inaugurating the ius novum. Over the next century thousands of papal decretals were issued and gradually collected in five compilationes. Compilatio Tertia, consisting of decretals from the first 12 years of his reign, was ordered by Innocent III in 1210 to be used in courts and law schools, thus becoming the first collection in the West to be officially promulgated. Gregory IX commissioned Raymond of Peafort to organize the five compilationes in one collection, which was promulgated in 1234 and became known as the Extravagantes. Two other official collections were made later: the Liber Sextus (1298) of Boniface VIII and the Constitutiones Clementinae (1317). The Extravagantes of John XXII and the Extravagantes Communes were privately compiled. In 1503 the legist Jean Chappuis printed and published in Paris, under the title Corpus Juris Canonici, the Decretum of Gratian and the three official and two private collections of decretals. The Corpus, along with the decrees of the Council of Trent (1545-1563), remained the fundamental law of the Roman Catholic church until the Codex Iuris Canonici appeared in 1917. The Corpus continues to have some validity for the Church of England, which issued a Code of Canons in 1603. The medieval law is presupposed except where it has been affected by contrary statute or custom in England. The Convocations of Canterbury and York in 1964 and 1969 promulgated a revised code with the same understanding.

After the theological updating of the Second Vatican Council, it became necessary for the Roman Catholic church to thoroughly revise the 1917 code. A special commission was established in 1963, which in 1980 presented the draft of a completely new code. Pope John Paul II, after making a number of revisions, promulgated it on January 25, 1983; it took effect on November 27, 1983.

Plans have been under way since a presynodal meeting at Chambsy, Switzerland, in November 1976 for the first Great Synod of Eastern Orthodoxy to be held since the 8th century. Among the topics for further study is the codification of the Holy Canons.

John Edward Lynch

Canon Law

Advanced Information

The word "canon" derives from the Greek kanon meaning "measuring rod," "rule," "list." Hence canon law may be simply defined as the rules of the church for purposes of order, ministry, and discipline. At first these consisted of ad hoc pronouncements by leaders or councils in a local setting. Particularly important were those which came from the greater centers, and especially the canons adopted at Nicaea (A.D. 325). Indeed, it was not long before canons were put out under the name of the apostles or great figures of the first centuries, and a necessary process of collection and codification continued through the Dark Ages, with much standardization in the West under Charlemagne. Gratian was the man who brought this process to a virtual culmination in the Roman communion with his famous Decretum (A.D. 1140), which underlies the developed study of canon law in the Middle Ages and is the basis of the modern Corpus iuris canonici. The Protestant churches have naturally disowned this whole body of legislation and generally avoid the terms "canon" or "canon law," but insofar as any church must make rules for the ordering of its life and work, various forms of canon law are naturally found in all churches.

G W Bromiley
(Elwell Evangelical Dictionary)

Canon Law

Catholic Information

This subject will be treated under the following heads:

I. General Notion and Divisions

II. Canon Law as a Science

III. Sources of Canon Law

IV. Historical Development of Texts and Collections

V. Codification

VI. Ecclesiastical Law

VII. The Principal Canonists


Canon law is the body of laws and regulations made by or adopted by ecclesiastical authority, for the government of the Christian organization and its members. The word adopted is here used to point out the fact that there are certain elements in canon law borrowed by the Church from civil law or from the writings of private individuals, who as such had no authority in ecclesiastical society. Canon is derived from the Greek kanon, i.e. a rule or practical direction (not to speak of the other meanings of the word, such as list or catalogue), a term which soon acquired an exclusively ecclesiastical signification. In the fourth century it was applied to the ordinances of the councils, and thus contrasted with the Greek word nomoi, the ordinances of the civil authorities; the compound word "Nomocanon" was given to those collections of regulations in which the laws formulated by the two authorities on ecclesiastical matters were to be found side by side. At an early period we meet with expressions referring to the body of ecclesiastical legislation then in process of formation: canones, ordo canonicus, sanctio canonica; but the expression "canon law" (jus canonicum) becomes current only about the beginning of the twelfth century, being used in contrast with the "civil law" (jus civile), and later we have the "Corpus juris canonici", as we have the "Corpus juris Civilis". Canon law is also called "ecclesiastical law" (jus ecclesiasticum); however, strictly speaking, there is a slight difference of meaning between the two expressions: canon law denotes in particular the law of the "Corpus Juris", including the regulations borrowed from Roman law; whereas ecclesiastical law refers to all laws made by the ecclesiastical authorities as such, including those made after the compiling of the "Corpus Juris". Contrasted with the imperial or Caesarian law (jus caesareum), canon law is sometimes styled pontifical law (jus pontificium), often also it is termed sacred law (jus sacrum), and sometimes even Divine law (jus divinum: c. 2, De privil.), as it concerns holy things, and has for its object the wellbeing of souls in the society divinely established by Jesus Christ.

Canon law may be divided into various branches, according to the points of view from which it is considered:

If we consider its sources, it comprises Divine law, including natural law, based on the nature of things and on the constitution given by Jesus Christ to His Church; and human or positive law, formulated by the legislator, in conformity with the Divine law. We shall return to this later, when treating of the sources of canon law.

If we consider the form in which it is found, we have the written law (jus scriptum) comprising the laws promulgated by the competent authorities, and the unwritten law (jus non scripture), or even customary law, resulting from practice and custom; the latter however became less important as the written law developed.

If we consider the subject matter of the law, we have the public law (jus publicum) and private law (jus privatum). This division is explained in two different ways by the different schools of writers: for most of the adherents of the Roman school, e.g. Cavagnis (Instit. jur. publ. eccl., Rome, 1906, I, 8), public law is the law of the Church as a perfect society, and even as a perfect society such as it has been established by its Divine founder: private law would therefore embrace all the regulations of the ecclesiastical authorities concerning the internal organization of that society, the functions of its ministers, the rights and duties of its members. Thus understood, the public ecclesiastical law would be derived almost exclusively from Divine and natural law. On the other hand, most of the adherents of the German school, following the idea of the Roman law (Inst., I, i, 4; "Publicum jus est quad ad statuary rei Romanae spectat: privatum quad ad privatorum utilitatem"), define public law as the body of laws determining the rights and duties of those invested with ecclesiastical authority, whereas for them private law is that which sets forth the rights and duties of individuals as such. Public law would, therefore, directly intend the welfare of society as such, and indirectly that of its members; while private law would look primarily to the wellbeing of the individual and secondarily to that of the community.

Public law is divided into external law (jus externum) and internal law (jus internum). External law determines the relations of ecclesiastical society with other societies. either secular bodies (the relations therefore of the Church and the State) or religious bodies, that is, interconfessional relations. Internal law is concerned with the constitution of the Church and the relations subsisting between the lawfully constituted authorities and their subjects.

Considered from the point of view of its expression, canon law may be divided into several branches, so closely allied, that the terms used to designate them are often employed almost indifferently: common law and special law; universal law and particular law; general law and singular law (jus commune et speciale; jus universale et particulare; jus generale et singulare). It is easy to point out the difference between them: the idea is that of a wider or a more limited scope; to be more precise, common law refers to things, universal law to territories, general law to persons; so regulations affecting only certain things, certain territories, certain classes of persons, being a restriction or an addition, constitute special, particular, or singular law, and even local or individual law. This exceptional law is often referred to as a privilege (privilegium, lex privata), though the expression is applied more usually to concessions made to an individual. The common law, therefore, is that which is to be observed with regard to a certain matter, unless the legislator has foreseen or granted exceptions; for instance, the laws regulating benefices contain special provisions for benefices subject to the right of patronage. Universal law is that which is promulgated for the whole Church; but different countries and different dioceses may have local laws limiting the application of the former and even derogating from it. Finally, different classes of persons, the clergy, religious orders, etc., have their own laws which are superadded to the general law.

We have to distinguish between the law of the Western or Latin Church, and the law of the Eastern Churches, and of each of them. Likewise, between the law of the Catholic Church and those of the non-Catholic Christian Churches or confessions, the Anglican Church and the various Eastern Orthodox Churches. Finally, if we look to the history or chronological evolution of canon law, we find three epochs: from the beginning to the "Decretum" of Gratian exclusively; from Gratian to the Council of Trent; from the Council of Trent to our day. The law of these three periods is referred to respectively as the ancient, the new, and the recent law (jus antiquum, novum, novissimum), though some writers prefer to speak of the ancient law, the law of the Middle Ages, and the modern law (Laurentius, "Instit.", n.4).


As we shall see in treating of the gradual development of the material of canon law (see below, IV), though a legislative power has always existed in the Church, and though it has always been exercised, a long period had necessarily to elapse before the laws were reduced to a harmonious systematic body, serving as a basis for methodical study and giving rise to general theories. In the first place, the legislative authority makes laws only when circumstances require them and in accordance with a definite plan. For centuries, nothing more was done than to collect successively the canons of councils, ancient and recent, the letters of popes, and episcopal statutes; guidance was sought for in these, when analogous cases occurred, but no one thought of extracting general principles from them or of systematizing all the laws then in force. In the eleventh century certain collections group under the same headings the canons that treat of the same matters; however, it is only in the middle of the twelfth century that we meet in the "Decretum" of Gratian the first really scientific treatise on canon law. The School of Bologna had just revived the study of Roman law; Gratian sought to inaugurate a similar study of canon law. But, while compilations of texts and official collections were available for Roman law, or "Corpus juris civilis", Gratian had no such assistance. He therefore adopted the plan of inserting the texts in the body of his general treatise; from the disordered mass of canons collected from the earliest days, he selected not only the law actually in force (eliminating the regulations which had fallen into desuetude, or which were revoked, or not of general application) but also the principles; he elaborated a system of law which, however incomplete, was nevertheless methodical. The science of canon law, i.e. the methodical and coordinated knowledge of ecclesiastical law, was at length established. Gratian's "Decretum" was a wonderful work; welcomed, taught and glossed by the decretists at Bologna and later in the other schools and universities, it was for a long time the textbook of canon law. However his plan was defective and confusing, and, after the day of the glosses and the strictly literal commentaries, it was abandoned in favour of the method adopted by Bernard of Pavia in his "Breviarium" and by St. Raymund of Pennafort in the official collection of the "Decretals" of Gregory IX, promulgated in 1234 (see CORPUS JURIS CANONICI). These collections, which did not include the texts used by Gratian, grouped the materials into five books, each divided into "titles", and under each title the decretals or fragments of decretals were grouped in chronological order. The five books, the subject matter of which is recalled by the well-known verse: "judex, judicium, clerus, connubia, crimen" (i.e. judge, judgment, clergy, marriages, crime), did not display a very logical plan; not to speak of certain titles that were more or less out of place. They treated successively of the depositaries of authority, procedure, the clergy and the things pertaining to them, marriage, crimes and penalties. In spite of its defects, the system had at least the merit of being official; not only was it adopted in the latter collections, but it served as the basis for almost all canonical works up to the sixteenth century, and even to our day, especially in the universities, each of which had a faculty of canon law.

However, the method of studying and teaching gradually developed: if the early decretalists made use of the elementary plan of the gloss and literal commentary, their successors in composing their treatises were more independent of the text; they commented on the titles, not on the chapters or the words; often they followed the titles or chapters only nominally and artificially. In the sixteenth century they tried to apply, not to the official collections, but in their lectures on canon law the method and division of the "Institutes" of Justinian: persons, things, actions or procedure, crimes, and penalties (Institutes, I, ii, 12). This plan, popularized by the "Institutiones juris canonici" of Lancellotti (1563), has been followed since by most of the canonist authors of "Institutiones" or manuals, though there has been considerable divergence in the subdivisions; most of the more extensive works, however, preserved the order of the "Decretals". This was also followed in the 1917 code. In later times many textbooks, especially in Germany, began to adopt original plans. In the sixteenth century too, the study of canon law was developed and improved like that of other sciences, by the critical spirit of the age: doubtful texts were rejected and the raison d'être and tendency or intention of later laws traced back to the customs of former days. Canon law was more studied and better understood; writings multiplied, some of an historical nature, others practical, according to the inclination of the authors. In the universities and seminaries, it became a special study, though as might be expected, not always held in equal esteem. It may be noted too that the study of civil law is now frequently separated from that of canon law, a result of the changes that have come over society. On the other hand, in too many seminaries the teaching of ecclesiastical law is not sufficiently distinguished from that of moral theology. The publication of the new general code of canon law will certainly bring about a more normal state of affairs.

The first object of the science of canon law is to fix the laws that are in force. This is not difficult when one has exact and recent texts, drawn up as abstract laws e.g. most of the texts since the Council of Trent, and as will be the case for all canon law when the new code is published. But it was not so in the Middle Ages; it was the canonists who, to a large extent, formulated the law by extracting it from the accumulated mass of texts or by generalizing from the individual decisions in the early collections of decretals. When the law in force is known it must be explained, and this second object of the science of canon law is still unchanged. It consists in showing the true sense, the reason, the extension and application of each law and each institution. This necessitates a careful and exact application of the triple method of exposition, historical, philosophical, and practical: the first explains the law in accordance with its source and the evolution of customs; the second explains its principles; the last shows how it is to be applied at present. This practical application is the object of jurisprudence, which collects, coordinates and utilizes, for more or less analogous cases, the decisions of the competent tribunal. From this we may learn the position of canon law in the hierarchy of sciences. It is a judicial science, differing from the science of Roman law and of civil law inasmuch as it treats of the laws of an other society; but as this society is of the spiritual order and in a certain sense supernatural, canon law belongs also to the sacred sciences. In this category it comes after theology, which studies and explains in accordance with revelation, the truths to be believed; it is supported by theology, but in its turn it formulates the practical rules toward which theology tends, and so it has been called "theologia practica", "theologia rectrix". In as far as it is practical the science of canon law is closely related to moral theology; however, it differs from the latter which is not directly concerned with the acts prescribed or forbidden by the external law, but only with the rectitude of human acts in the light of the last end of man, whereas, canon law treats of the external laws relating to the good order of society rather than the workings of the individual conscience. Juridical, historical, and above all theological sciences are most useful for the comprehensive study of canon law.


This expression has a twofold meaning; it may refer to the sources from which the laws come and which give the latter their judicial force (fortes juris essendi); or it may refer to the sources where canon law is to be found (fortes juris cognoscendi), i.e. the laws themselves such as they occur in the texts and various codes. These sources are also called the material and the formal sources of canon law. We shall consider first the sources under the former aspect. The ultimate source of canon law is God, Whose will is manifested either by the very nature of things (natural Divine law), or by Revelation (positive Divine law). Both are contained in the Scriptures and in Tradition. Positive Divine law cannot contradict natural law; it rather confirms it and renders it more definite. The Church accepts and considers both as sovereign binding laws which it can interpret but can not modify; however, it does not discover natural law by philosophic speculation; it receives it, with positive Divine law, from God through His inspired Books, though this does not imply a confusion of the two kinds of Divine law. Of the Old Law the Church has preserved in addition to the Decalogue some precepts closely allied to natural law, e.g. certain matrimonial impediments; as to the other laws given by God to His chosen people, it considers them to have been ritual and declares them abrogated by Jesus Christ. Or rather, Jesus Christ, the Lawgiver of the spiritual society founded by Him (Con. Trid., Sess. VI, "De justif.", can. I), has replaced them by the fundamental laws which He gave His Church. This Christian Divine law, if we may so call it, is found in the Gospels, in the Apostolic writings, in the living Tradition, which transmits laws as well as dogmas. On this positive Divine law depend the essential principles of the Church's constitution, the primacy, the episcopacy, the essential elements of Divine worship and the Sacraments, the indissolubility of marriage, etc.

Again, to attain its sublime end, the Church, endowed by its Founder with legislative power, makes laws in conformity with natural and Divine law. The sources or authors of this positive ecclesiastical law are essentially the episcopate and its head, the pope, the successors of the Apostolic College and its divinely appointed head, Saint Peter. They are, properly speaking, the active sources of canon law. Their activity is exercised in its most solemn form by the ecumenical councils, where the episcopate united with its head, and convoked and presided over by him, with him defines its teaching and makes the laws that bind the whole Church. The canons of the Ecumenical councils, especially those of Trent, hold an exceptional place in ecclesiastical law. But, without infringing on the ordinary power of the bishops, the pope, as head of the episcopate, possesses in himself the same powers as the episcopate united with him. It is true that the disciplinary and legislative power of the popes has not always, in the course of centuries, been exercised in the same manner and to the same extent, but in proportion as the administration became centralized, their direct intervention in legislation became more and more marked; and so the sovereign pontiff is the most fruitful source of canon law; he can abrogate the laws made by his predecessors or by Ecumenical councils; he can legislate for the whole church or for a part thereof, a country or a given body of individuals; if he is morally bound to take advice and to follow the dictates of prudence, he is not legally obliged to obtain the consent of any other person or persons, or to observe any particular form; his power is limited only by Divine law, natural and positive, dogmatic and moral. Furthermore, he is, so to say, the living law, for he is considered as having all law in the treasury of his heart ("in scrinio pectoris"; Boniface VIII. c. i, "De Constit." in VI). From the earliest ages the letters of the Roman pontiffs constitute, with the canons of the councils, the principal element of canon law, not only of the Roman Church and its immediate dependencies. but of all Christendom; they are everywhere relied upon and collected, and the ancient canonical compilations contain a large number of these precious "decretals" (decreta, statuta, epistolae decretales, and epistolae synodicae). Later, the pontifical laws are promulgated more usually as constitutions, Apostolic Letters, the latter being classified as Bulls or Briefs, according to their external form, or even as spontaneous acts, "Motu proprio". Moreover, the legislative and disciplinary power of the pope not being an in communicable privilege, the laws and regulations made in his name and with his approbation possess his authority: in fact, though most of the regulations made by the Congregations of the cardinals and other organs of the Curia are incorporated in the Apostolic Letters, yet the custom exists and is becoming more general for legislation to be made by mere decrees of the Congregations, with the papal approval. These are the "Acts of the Holy See" (Acta Sancte Sedis), and their object or purpose permitting, are real laws (see ROMAN CURIA).

Next to the pope, the bishops united in local councils, and each of them individually, are sources of law for their common or particular territory; canons of national or provincial councils, and diocesan statutes, constitute local law. Numerous texts of such origin are found in the ancient canonical collections. At the present day and for a long time past, the law has laid down clearly the powers of local councils and of bishops; if their decrees should interfere with the common law they have no authority save in virtue of pontifical approbation. It is well known that diocesan statutes are not referred to the sovereign pontiff, whereas the decrees of provincial councils are submitted for examination and approval to the Holy See (Const. "Immensa" of Sixtus V, 22 Jan., 1587). We may liken to bishops in this matter various bodies that have the right of governing themselves and thus enjoy a certain autonomy; such are prelates with territorial jurisdiction, religious orders, some exempt chapters and universities, etc. The concessions granted to them are generally subject to a certain measure of control.

Other sources of law are rather impersonal in their nature, chief among them being custom or the unwritten law. In canon law custom has become almost like a legislator; not in the sense that the people are made their own lawgiver, but a practice followed by the greater part of the community, and which is reasonable and fulfills the legal requirements for prescription and is observed as obligatory, acquires the force of law by at least the tacit consent of the legislator. Under such circumstances custom can create or rescind a legal obligation, derogate from a law, interpret it, etc. But it must be remarked that in our days, owing to the fully developed body of written law, custom plays a much less important part than did the practices and habits of early Christian times, when there was but little written law and even that seldom of wide application. The civil law of different nations, and especially the Roman law, may be numbered among the accessory sources of canon law. But it is necessary to explain more exactly its role and importance. Evidently secular law cannot be, strictly speaking, a source of canon law, the State as such having no competence in spiritual matters; yet it may become so by the more or less formal acceptation of particular laws by the ecclesiastical authorities. We pass by in the first place the laws made by the mutual agreement of both parties, such as the legislation of the numerous assemblies in the Visigothic kingdom, and the Frankish kingdom and empire, where the bishops sat with the lords and nobles. Such also is the case of the concordats of later ages, real contracts between the two powers. In these cases we have an ecclesiastico-civil law, the legal force of which arose from the joint action of the two competent authorities. It is in a different sense that Roman law, Germanic law, and in a lesser degree modern law, have become a subsidiary source of canon law.

It must be remembered that the Church existed for a long time before having a complete and coordinated system of law; that many daily acts of its administration, while objectively canonical, were of the same nature as similar acts in civil matters, e.g. contracts, obligations, and in general the administration of property; it was quite natural for the Church to accommodate itself in these matters to the existing flows, with out positively approving of them. Later when the canonists of the twelfth century began to systematize the ecclesiastical law, they found themselves in presence, on the one hand, of a fragmentary canon law, and on the other hand of the complete methodical Roman code; they had recourse to the latter to supply what was wanting in the former, whence the maxim adopted by the canonists and inserted in the "Corpus Juris", that the Church acts according to Roman law when canon law is silent (cap. 1. "De novi op. nunc.", X, i, V, tit. xxxii). Moreover, in the Teutonic kingdoms the clergy followed the Roman law as a personal statute. However, in proportion as the written canon law increased, Roman law became of less practical value in the Church (cap. 28, X, "De priv.", X, lib. V, tit. xxxiii). Canon law, it may be said, adopted from Roman law what relates to obligations, contracts, judiciary actions, and to a great extent civil procedure. Other Roman laws were the object of a more positive recognition than mere usage, i.e. they were formally approved, those, for instance, which though of secular origin, concerned ecclesiastical things, e.g. the Byzantine ecclesiastical laws, or again laws of civil origin and character but which were changed into canonical laws e.g. the impediment of marriage arising from adoption. The juridical influence of Teutonic law was much less important, if we abstract from the inevitable adaptation to the customs of barbarous races, yet some survivals of this law in ecclesiastical legislation are worthy of note: the somewhat feudal system of benefices; the computation of the degrees of kindred; the assimilating of the penitential practices to the system of penal compensation (wehrgeld); finally, but for a time only, justification from criminal charges on the oath of guarantors or co-jurors (De purgatione canonica, lib. V, tit. xxxiv). Modern law has only a restricted and local influence on canon law, and that particularly on two points. On the one hand, the Church conforms to the civil laws on mixed matters, especially with regard to the administration of its property; on some occasions even it has finally adopted as its own measures passed by the civil powers acting independently; a notable case is the French decree of 1809 on the "Fabriques d'église". On the other hand, modern legislation is indebted to the canon law for certain beneficial measures: part of the procedure in criminal, civil, and matrimonial cases, and to some extent, the organization of courts and tribunals.


Considered under the second aspect, the sources of canon law are the legislative texts, and the collections of those texts whence we derive our knowledge of the Church's laws. In order to appreciate fully the reasons for and the utility of the great work of codification of the canon law, recently begun by order of Pius X, it is necessary to recall the general history of those texts and collections, ever increasing in number up to the present time. A detailed account of each of the canonical collections is here out of place; the more important ones are the subject of special articles, to which we refer the reader; it will suffice if we exhibit the different stages in the development of these texts and collections, and make clear the movement to wards centralization and unification that has led up to the present situation. Even in the private collections of the early centuries, in which the series of conciliary canons were merely brought together in more or less chronological order, a constant tendency towards unification is noticeable. From the ninth century onwards the collections are systematically arranged; with the thirteenth century begins the first official collections, thenceforth the nucleus around which the new legislative texts centre, though it is not yet possible to reduce them to a harmonious and coordinated code. Before tracing the various steps of this evolution, some terms require to be explained. The name "canonical collections" is given to all collections of ecclesiastical legislative texts, because the principal texts were the canons of the councils. At first the authors of these collections contented themselves with bringing together the canons of the different councils in chronological order; consequently these are called "chronological" collections; in the West, the last important chronological collection is that of Pseudo-Isidore. After his time the texts were arranged according to subject matter; these are the "systematic" collections, the only form in use since the time of Pseudo-Isidore. All the ancient collections are private, due to personal initiative, and have, therefore, as collections, no official authority: each text has only its own intrinsic value; even the "Decretum" of Gratian is of this nature. On the other hand, official or authentic collections are those that have been made or at least promulgated by the legislator. They begin with the "Compilatio tertia" of Innocent III; the later collections of the "Corpus Juris", except the "Extravagantes", are official. All the texts in an official collection have the force of law. There are also general collections and particular collections: the former treating of legislation in general, the latter treating of some special subject, for instance, marriage, procedure, etc., or even of the local law of a district. Finally, considered chronologically, the sources and collections are classified as previous to or later than the "Corpus Juris".

A. Canonical Collections In the East

Until the Church began to enjoy peace, the written canon law was very meagre; after making full allowance for the documents that must have perished, we can discover only a fragmentary law, made as circumstances demanded, and devoid of all system. Unity of legislation, in as far as it can be expected at that period, is identical with a certain uniformity of practice, based on the prescriptions of Divine law relative to the constitution of the Church, the liturgy, the sacraments, etc. The clergy, organized everywhere in the same way, exercised almost everywhere the same functions. But at an early period we discover a greater local disciplinary uniformity between the Churches of the great sees (Rome, Carthage, Alexandria, Antioch, later Constantinople) and the Churches depending immediately on them. Further it is the disciplinary decisions of the bishops of the various regions that form the first nucleus of local canon law; these texts, spreading gradually from one country to another by means of the collections, obtain universal dissemination and in this way are the basis of general canon law.

There were, however, in the East, from the early days up to the end of the fifth century, certain writings, closely related to each other, and which were in reality brief canon law treatises on ecclesiastical administration the duties of the clergy and the faithful, and especially on the liturgy. We refer to works attributed to the Apostles, very popular in the Oriental Churches, though devoid of official authority, and which may be called pseudo-epigraphic, rather than apocryphal. The principal writings of this kind are the "Teaching of the Twelve Apostles" or "Didache", the "Didascalia", based on the "Didache"; the "Apostolic Constitutions", an expansion of the two preceding works; then the "Apostolic Church Ordinance", the "Definitio canonica SS. Apostolorum", the "Testament of the Lord" and the "Octateuch of Clement"; lastly the "Apostolic Canons". Of all this literature, only the "Apostolic Canons" werein cluded in the canonical collections of the Greek Church. The most important of these documents the "Apostolic Constitutions", was removed by the Second Canon of the Council in Trullo (692), as having been interpolated by the heretics. As to the eighty-five Apostolic Canons, accepted by the same council, they rank yet first in the above-mentioned "Apostolic" collection; the first fifty translated into Latin by Dionysius Exiguus (c. 500), were included in the Western collections and afterwards in the "Corpus Juris".

As the later law of the separated Eastern Churches did not influence the Western collections, we need not treat of it, but go on to consider only the Greek collection. It begins early in the fourth century: in the different provinces of Asia Minor, to the canons of local councils are added those of the ecumenical Council of Nicea (325), everywhere held in esteem. The Province of Pontus furnished the penitentiary decisions of Ancyra and Neocæsarea (314); Antioch; the canons of the famous Council "in encaeniis" (341), a genuine code of metropolitan organization; Paphlagonia, that of the Council of Gangra (343), a reaction against the first excesses of asceticism; Phrygia, the fifty-nine canons of Laodicea on different disciplinary and liturgical matters. This collection was so highly esteemed that at the Council of Chalcedon (451) the canons were read as one series. It was increased later by the addition of the canons of (Constantinople (381), with other canons attributed to it, those of Ephesus (431). Chalcedon (451), and the Apostolic canons. In 692 the Council in Trullo passed 102 disciplinary canons, the second of which enumerates the elements of the official collection: they are the texts we have just mentioned, together with the canons of Sardica, and of Carthage (419), according to Dionysius Exiguus, and numerous canonical letters of the great bishops, SS. Dionysius of Alexandria, Gregory Thaumaturgus, Basil, etc. If to these be added the canons of the two ecumenical councils of Nicea (787) and Constantinople (869) we have all the elements of the definitive collection in its final shape. A few "systematic" collections may be mentioned as pertaining to this period: one containing fifty titles by an unknown author about 535; another with twenty-five titles of the ecclesiastical laws of Justinian; a collection of fifty titles drawn up about 550, by John the Scholastic, a priest of Antioch. The compilations known as the "Nomocanons" are more important, because they bring together the civil laws and the ecclesiastical laws on the same subjects; the two principal are the Nomocanon, wrongly attributed to John the Scholastic, but which dates from the end of the sixth century, with fifty titles, and another, drawn up in the seventh century, and afterwards augmented by the Patriarch Photius in 883.

B. The Canonical Collections in the West to Pseudo-Isidore

In the West, canonical collections developed as in the East, but about two centuries later. At first appear collections of national or local laws and the tendency towards centralization is partially effected in the ninth century. Towards the end of the fourth century there is yet in the West no canonical collection, not even a local one, those of the fifth century are essentially local, but all of them borrow from the Greek councils. The latter were known in the West by two Latin versions, one called the "Hispana" or "Isidorian", because it was inserted in the Spanish canonical collection, attributed to St. Isidore of Seville, the other called the "Itala" or "ancient" (Prisca), because Dionysius Exiguus, in the first half of the sixth century, found it in use at Rome, and being dissatisfied with its imperfections improved it. Almost all the Western collections, therefore, are based on the same texts as the Greek collection, hence the marked influence of that collection on Western canon law.

(1) At the end of the fifth century the Roman Church was completely organized and the popes had promulgated many legislative texts; but no collection of them had yet been made. The only extra-Roman canons recognized were the canons of Nicea and Sardica, the latter being joined to the former, and at times even cited as the canons of Nicea. The Latin version of the ancient Greek councils was known, but was not adopted as ecclesiastical law. Towards the year 500 Dionysius Exiguus compiled at Rome a double collection, one of the councils, the other of decretals, i.e. papal letters. The former, executed at the request of Stephen, Bishop of Salona, is a translation of the Greek councils, including Chalcedon, and begins with the fifty Apostolic canons; Dionysius adds to it only the Latin text of the canons of Sardica and of Carthage (419), in which the more ancient African councils are partially reproduced. The second is a collection of thirty-nine papal decretals, from Siricius (384) to Anastasius II (496-98). (See COLLECTIONS OF ANCIENT CANONS.) Thus joined together these two collections became the canonical code of the Roman Church, not by official approbation, but by authorized practice. But while in the work of Dionysius the collection of conciliary canons remained unchanged, that of the decretals was successively increased; it continued to incorporate letters of the different popes till about the middle of the eighth century when Adrian I gave (774) the collection of Dionysius to the future Emperor Charlemagne as the canonical book of the Roman Church. This collection, often called the "Dionysio-Hadriana", was soon officially received in all Frankish territory, where it was cited as the "Liber Canonum", and was adopted for the whole empire of Charlemagne at the Diet of Aachen in 802. This was an important step towards the centralization and unification of the ecclesiastical law, especially as the Latin Catholic world hardly extended beyond the limits of the empire, Africa and the south of Spain having been lost to the Church through the victories of Islam.

(2) The canon law of the African Church was strongly centralized at Carthage; the documents naturally took the form of a collection, as it was customary to read and insert in the Acts of each council the decisions of the preceding councils. At the time of the invasion of the Vandals, the canonical code of the African Church comprised, after the canons of Nicea, those of the Council of Carthage under Bishop Gratus (about 348), under Genethlius (390), of twenty or twenty-two plenary council under Aurelius (from 393 to 427), and the minor councils of Constantinople. Unfortunately these records have not come down to us in their entirety; we possess them in two forms: in the collection of Dionysius Exiguus, as the canons of a "Concilium Africanum"; in the Spanish collection, as those of eight councils (the fourth wrongly attributed, being a document from Arles, dating about the beginning of the sixth century). Through these two channels the African texts entered into Western canon law. It will suffice to mention the two "systematic" collections of Fulgentius Ferrandus and Cresconius.

(3) The Church in Gaul had no local religious centre, the territory being divided into unstable kingdoms; it is not surprising therefore that we meet no centralized canon law or universally accepted collection. There are numerous councils, however, and an abundance of texts; but if we except the temporary authority of the See of Arles, no church of Gaul could point to a permanent group of dependent sees. The canonical collections were fairly numerous, but none was generally accepted. The most widespread was the "Quesneliana", called after its editor (the Jansenist Paschase Quesnel), rich, but badly arranged, containing many Greek, Gallic, and other councils, also pontifical decretals. With the other collections it gave way to the "Hadriana", at the end of the eighth century.

(4) In Spain, on the contrary, at least after the conversion of the Visigoths, the Church was strongly centralized in the See of Toledo, and in close union with the royal power. Previous to this, we must note the collection of St. Martin of Braga, a kind of adaptation of conciliary canons, often incorrectly cited in the Middle Ages as the "Capitula Martini papae" (about 563). It was absorbed in the large and important collection of the Visigothic Church. The latter, begun as early as the council of 633 and increased by the canons of subsequent councils, is known as the "Hispana" or "Isidoriana", because in later times it was attributed (erroneously) to St. Isidore of Seville. It comprises two parts: the councils and the decretals; the councils are arranged in four sections: the East, Africa, Gaul, Spain, and chronological order is observed in each section; the decretals, 104 in number, range from Pope St. Damasus to St. Gregory (366-604). Its original elements consist of the Spanish councils from Elvira (about 300) to the Seventeenth Council of Toledo in 694. The influence of this collection, in the form it assumed about the middle of the ninth century, when the False Decretals were inserted into it, was very great.

(5) Of Great Britain and Ireland we need mention only the Irish collection of the beginning of the eighth century, from which several texts passed to the continent; it is remarkable for including among its canons citations from the Scriptures and the Fathers.

(6) The collection of the False Decretals, or the Pseudo-Isidore (about 850), is the last and most complete of the "chronological" collections, and therefore the one most used by the authors of the subsequent "systematic" collections; it is the "Hispana" or Spanish collection together with apocryphal decretals attributed to the popes of the first centuries up to the time of St. Damasus, when the authentic decretals begin. It exerted a very great influence.

(7) To conclude the list of collections, where the later canonists were to garner their materials, we must mention the "Penitentials", the "Ordines" or ritual collections, the "Formularies", especially the "Liber Diurnus"; also compilations of laws either purely secular, or semi-ecclesiastical, like the "Capitularies" (q.v.). The name "capitula" or "capitularia" is given also to the episcopal ordinances quite common in the ninth century. It may be noted that the author of the False Decretals forged also false "Capitularies", under the name of Benedict the Deacon, and false episcopal "Capitula", under the name of Angilramnus, Bishop of Metz.

C. Canonical Collections to the Time of Gratian

The Latin Church was meanwhile moving towards closer unity; the local character of canonical discipline and laws gradually disappears, and the authors of canonical collections exhibit a more personal note, i.e. they pick out more or less advantageously the texts, which they borrow from the "chronological" compilations, though they display as yet no critical discernment, and include many apocryphal documents, while others continue to be attributed to the wrong sources. They advance, nevertheless, especially when to the bare texts they add their own opinions and ideas. From the end of the ninth century to the middle of the twelfth these collections are very numerous; many of them are still unpublished, and some deservedly so. We can only mention the principal ones:

A collection in twelve books, compiled in Northern Italy, and dedicated to an Archbishop Anselm, doubtless Anselm II of Milan (833-97), still unedited; it seems to have been widely used.

The "Libri duo de synodalibus causis" of Regino, Abbot of Prüm (d. 915), a pastoral visitation manual of the bishop of the diocese, edited by Wasserschleben (1840).

The voluminous compilation, in twenty books, of Burchard, Bishop of Worms, compiled between 1012 and 1022, entitled the "Collectarium", also "Decretum", a manual for the use of ecclesiastics in their ministry; the nineteenth book, "Corrector" or "Medicus", treats of the administration of the Sacrament of Penance, and was often current as a distinct work. This widely circulated collection is in P.L., CXL. At the end of the eleventh century there appeared in Italy several collections favouring the reform of Gregory VII and supporting the Holy See in the in vestiture strife; some of the authors utilized for their works the Roman archives.

The collection of Anselm, Bishop of Lucca (d. 1086), in thirteen books, still unedited, an influential work.

The collection of Cardinal Deusdedit, dedicated to Pope Victor III (1087), it treats of the primacy of the pope, of the Roman clergy, ecclesiastical property, immunities, and was edited by Martinucci in 1869, more recently and better by Wolf von Glanvell (1905).

The "Breviarium" of Cardinal Atto; edited by Mai, "Script. vet. nova collect.", VI, app. 1832.

The collection of Bonizo, Bishop of Sutri in ten books, written after 1089, still unedited.

The collection of Cardinal Gregory, called by him "Polycarpus", in eight books, written before 1120, yet unedited.

In France we must mention the small collection of Abbo, Abbot of Fleury (d. 1004). in fifty-two chapters, in P. L., CXXXIX; and especially the collections of Ives, Bishop of Chartres (d. 1115 or 1117), i.e. the "Collectio trium partium", the "Decretum", es pecially the "Panormia", a short compilation in eight books, extracted from the preceding two works, and widely used. The "Decretum" and the "Panormia" are in P. L., CLXI.

The unedited Spanish collection of Saragossa (Caesar-augustana) is based on these works of Ives of Chartres.

Finally, the "De misericordia et justitia", in three books, composed before 1121 by Algerus of Liège, a general treatise on ecclesiastical discipline, in which is fore shadowed the scholastic method of Gratian, reprinted in P.L., CLXXX.

D. The "Decretum" of Gratian: the Decretists

The "Concordantia discordantium canonum", known later as "Decretum", which Gratian published at Bologna about 1148, is not, as we consider it today, a collection of canonical texts, but a general treatise, in which the texts cited are inserted to help in establishing the law. It is true that the work is very rich in texts and there is hardly a canon of any importance contained in the earlier collections (including the decisions of the Lateran Council of 1139 and recent papal decretals) that Gratian has not used. His object, however, was to build up a juridical system from all these documents. Despite its imperfections, it must be admitted that the work of Gratian was as near perfection as was then possible. For that reason it was adopted at Bologna, and soon elsewhere, as the textbook for the study of canon law. (For an account of this collection see CORPUS JURIS CANONICI; CANONS.) We may here recall again that the "Decretum" of Gratian is not a codification, but a privately compiled treatise; further, that the building up of a general system of canon law was the work of the canonists, and not of the legislative authorities as such.

Quite as the professors at Bologna commented on Justinian's "Corpus juris civilis", so they began at once to comment on Gratian's work, the personal element as well as his texts. The first commentators are called the "Decretists". In their lectures (Latin lecturae, readings) they treated of the conclusions to be drawn from each part and solved the problems (quaestiones) arising therefrom. They synopsized their teaching in "glosses", interlinear at first, then marginal, or they composed separate treatises known as "Apparatus", "Summae", "Repetitiones", or else collected "casus", "questiones", "Margaritae", "Breviaria", etc. The principal decretists are:

Paucapalea, perhaps the first disciple of Gratian, whence, it is said, the name "palea" given to the additions to the "Decretum" (his "Summa" was edited by Schulte in 1890); Roland Bandinelli, later Alexander III (his "Summa" was edited by Thaner in 1874); Omnibonus, 1185 (see Schulte, "De Decreto ab Omnibono abbreviate", 1892); John of Faenza (d. bishop of that city in 1190); Rufinus ("Summa" edited by Singer, 1902); Stephen of Tournai (d. 1203; "Summa" edited by Schulte, 1891); the great canonist Huguccio (d. 1910; "Summa" edited by M. Gillmann); Sicard of Cremona (d. 1215); John the Teuton, really Semeca or Zemcke (d. 1245); Guido de Baysio, the "archdeacon" (of Bologna, d. 1313); and especially Bartholomew of Brescia (d. 1258), author of the "gloss" on the "Decretum" in its last form.

E. Decretals and Decretalists

While lecturing on Gratian's work the canonists laboured to complete and elaborate the master's teaching; with that view they collected assiduously the decretals of the popes, and especially the canons of the Ecumenical councils of the Lateran (1179, 1215); but these compilations were not intended to form a complete code, they merely centred round and supplemented Gratian's "Decretum"; for that reason these Decretals are known as the "Extravagantes", i.e. outside of, or extraneous to, the official collections. The five collections thus made between 1190 and 1226 (see DECRETALS), and which were to serve as the basis for the work of Gregory IX, mark a distinct step forward in the evolution of canon law: whereas Gratian had inserted the texts in his own treatise, and the canonists wrote their works without including the texts, we have now compilations of supplementary texts for the purpose of teaching, but which nevertheless remain quite distinct; in addition, we at last find the legislators taking part officially in editing the collections. While the "Breviarium" of Bernard of Pavia, the first to exhibit the division into five books and into titles, which St. Raymund of Pennafort was later to adopt, is the work of a private individual, the "Compilatio tertia" of Innocent III in 1210, and the "Compilatio quinta" of Honorius III, in 1226, are official collections. Though the popes, doubtless, intended only to give the professors at Bologna correct and authentic texts, they nevertheless acted officially; these collections, however, are but supplements to Gratian.

This is also true of the great collection of "Decretals" of Gregory IX (see DECRETALS and CORPUS JURIS CANONICI). The pope wished to collect in a more uniform and convenient manner the decretals scattered through so many different compilations; he entrusted this synopsis to his chaplain Raymund of Pennafort, and in 1234 sent it officially to the universities of Bologna and Paris. He did not wish to suppress or supplant the "Decretum" of Gratian, but this eventually occurred. The "Decretals" of Gregory IX, though composed in great part of specific decisions, represented in fact a more advanced state of law; furthermore, the collection was sufficiently extensive to touch almost every matter, and could serve as a basis for a complete course of instruction. It soon gave rise to a series of commentaries, glosses, and works, as the "Decretum" of Gratian had done, only these were more important since they were based on more recent and actual legislation. The commentators of the Decretals were known as Decretalists. The author of the "gloss" was Bernard de Botone (d. 1263); the text was commented on by the most distinguished canonists; among the best known previous to the sixteenth century, we must mention:

Bernard of Pavia ("Summa" edited by Laspeyres, 1860), Tancred, archdeacon of Bologna, d. 1230 ("Summa de Matrimonio", ed. Wunderlich, 1841); Godfrey of Trani (1245); Sinibaldo Fieschi, later Innocent IV (1254), whose "Apparatus in quinque libros decre taliurn" has been frequently reprinted since 1477; Henry of Susa, later Cardinal-Bishop of Ostia (d. 1271), hence "Hostiensis"; his "Summa Hostiensis", or "Summa aurea" was one of the best known canonical works, and was printed as early as 1473; Aegilius de Fuscarariis (d. 1289); William Durandus (d. 1296, Bishop of Mende), surnamed "Speculator", on account of his important treatise on procedure, the "Speculum judiciale", printed in 1473; Guido de Baysio, the "archdeacon", already mentioned; Nicolas de Tudeschis (d. 1453), also known as "Abbes siculus" or simply "Panormitanus" (or also "Abbas junior seu modernus") to distinguish him from the "Abbas antiques", whose name is unknown and who commented on the Decretals about 1275); Nicolas left a "Lecture" on the Decretals, the Liber Sextus, and the Clementines.

For some time longer, the same method of collecting was followed; not to speak of the private compilations, the popes continued to keep up to date the "Decretals" of Gregory IX; in 1245 Innocent IV sent a collection of forty-two decretals to the universities, ordering them to be inserted in their proper places; in 1253 he forwarded the "initia" or first words of the authentic decretals that were to be accepted. Later Gregory X and Nicholas III did likewise, but with little profit, and none of these brief supplementary collections survived. The work was again undertaken by Boniface VIII, who had prepared and published an official collection to complete the five existing books; this was known as the "Sextus" (Liber Sextus). Clement V also had prepared a collection which, in addition to his own decretals, contained the decisions of the Council of Vienne (1311-12); it was published in 1317 by his successor John XXII and was called the "Clementina." This was the last of the medieval official collections. Two later compilations included in the "Corpus Juris" are private works, the "Extravagantes of John XXII", arranged in 1325 by Zenzelin de Cassanis, who glossed them, and the "Extra vagantes communes", a belated collection; it was only in the edition of the "Corpus Juris" by Jean Chappuis, in 1500, that these collections found a fixed form. The "Sextus" was glossed and commented by Joannes Andrae, called the "fons et tuba juris" (d. 1348), and by Cardinal Jean Le Moine (Joannes Monachus, d. 1313), whose works were often printed.

When authors speak of the "closing" of the "Corpus Juris", they do not mean an act of the popes for bidding canonists to collect new documents, much less forbidding themselves to add to the ancient collections. But the canonical movement, so active after Gratian's time, has ceased forever. External circumstances, it is true, the Western Schism, the troubles of the fifteenth century, the Reformation, were unfavourable to the compiling of new canonical collections; but there were more direct causes. The special object of the first collections of the decretals was to help settle the law, which the canonists of Bologna were trying to systematize; that is why they contain so many specific decisions, from which the authors gathered general principles; when these had been ascertained the specific decisions were of no use except for jurisprudence; and in fact the "Sextus", the "Clementinae", and the other collections contain texts only when they are the statement of a general law. Any changes deemed necessary could be made in teaching without the necessity of recasting and augmenting the already numerous and massive collections.

F. From the Decretals to the Present Time

After the fourteenth century, except for its contact with the collections we have just treated of, canon law loses its unity. The actual law is found in the works of the canonists rather than in any specific collection; each one gathers his texts where he can; there is no one general collection sufficient for the purpose. It is not a case of confusion, but of isolation and dispersion. The sources of law later than the "Corpus Juris" are:

the decisions of councils, especially of the Council of Trent (1545-1563), which are so varied and important that by themselves they form a short code, though without much order; the constitutions of the popes, numerous but hitherto not officially collected, except the "Bullarium" of Benedict XIV (1747); the Rules of the Apostolic Chancery; the 1917 Code of Canon Law; lastly the decrees, decisions, and various acts of the Roman Congregations, jurisprudence rather than law properly so called.

For local law we have provincial councils and diocesan statutes. It is true there have been published collections of councils and Bullaria. Several Roman Congregations have also had their acts collected in official publications; but these are rather erudite compilations or repertories.


The method followed, both by private individuals and the popes, in drawing up canonical collections is generally rather that of a coordinated compilation or juxtaposition of documents than codification in the modern sense of the word, i.e. a redaction of the laws (all the laws) into an orderly series of short precise texts. It is true that antiquity, even the Roman law, did not offer any model different from that of the various collections, that method, however, long since ceased to be useful or possible in canon law. After the "closing" of the "Corpus Juris" two attempts were made; the first was of little use, not being official; the second, was official, but was not brought to a successful issue. In 1590 the jurisconsult Pierre Mathieu, of Lyons. published under the title "Liber septimus" a supplement to the "Corpus Juris", divided according to the order of the books and titles of the Decretals. It includes a selection of papal constitutions, from Sixtus IV to Sixtus V (1471-1590), but not the decrees of the Council of Trent. This compilation was of some service, and in a certain number of editions of the "Corpus Juris" was included as an appendix. As soon as the official edition of the "Corpus Juris" was published in 1582, Gregory XIII appointed a commission to bring up to date and complete the venerable collection. Sixtus V hastened the work and at length Cardinal Pinelli presented to Clement VIII what was meant to be a "Liber septimus". For the purpose of further studies the pope had it printed in 1598: the pontifical constitutions and the decrees of the Council of Trent were inserted in it in the order of the Decretals. For several reasons Clement VIII refused to approve this work and the project was definitively abandoned. Had this collection been approved it would have been as little used today as the others, the situation continuing to grow worse.

Many times during the nineteenth century, especially at the time of the Vatican Council (Collectio Lacensis, VII, 826), the bishops had urged the Holy See to draw up a complete collection of the laws in force, adapted to the needs of the day. It is true, their requests were complied with in regard to certain matters; Pius X in his "Motu proprio" of 19 March, 1904, refers to the constitution "Apostolicae Sedis" limiting and cataloguing the censures "latae sententie", the Constitution "Officiorum", revising the laws of the Index; the Constitution "Conditre" on the religious congregations with simple vows. These and several other documents were, moreover, drawn up in short precise articles, to a certain extent a novelty, and the beginning of a codification. Pius later officially ordered a codification, in the modern sense of the word, for the whole canon law. In the first year of his pontificate he issued the Tutu Proprio "Arduum", (De Ecclesiae legibus in unum redigendis); it treats of the complete codification and reformation of canon law. For this purpose the pope requested the entire episcopate, grouped in provinces, to make known to him the reforms they desired. At the same time he appointed a commission of consultors, on whom the initial work devolved, and a commission of cardinals, charged with the study and approval of the new texts, subject later to the sanction of the sovereign pontiff. The plans of the various titles were confided to canonists in every country. The general idea of the Code that followed includes (after the preliminary section) four main divisions: persons, things (with subdivisions for the sacraments, sacred places and objects, etc.). trials, crimes and penalties. It is practically the plan of the "Institutiones", or manuals of canon law. The articles were numbered consecutively. This great work was finished in 1917.


The sources of canon law, and the canonical writers. give us, it is true, rules of action, each with its specific object. We have now to consider all these laws in their common abstract element, in other words Ecclesiastical Law, its characteristics and its practice. According to the excellent definition of St. Thomas (I-II:90:1) a law is a reasonable ordinance for the common good promulgated by the head of the community. Ecclesiastical law therefore has for its author the head of the Christian community over which he has jurisdiction strictly so called; its object is the common welfare of that community, although it may cause inconvenience to individuals; it is adapted to the obtaining of the common welfare, which implies that it is physically and morally possible for the majority of the community to observe it; the legislator must intend to bind his subjects and must make known that intention clearly; finally he must bring the law under the notice of the community. A law is thus distinguished from a counsel, which is optional not obligatory; from a precept, which is imposed not on the community but on individual members; and from a regulation or direction, which refers to accessory matters.

The object therefore of ecclesiastical law is all that is necessary or useful in order that the society may attain its end, whether there be question of its organization, its working, or the acts of its individual members; it extends also to temporal things, but only indirectly. With regard to acts, the law obliges the individual either to perform or to omit certain acts; hence the distinction into "affirmative or preceptive" laws and "negative or prohibitory" laws; at times it is forced to allow certain things to be done, and we have "permissive" laws or laws of forbearance; finally, the law in addition to forbidding a given act may render it, if performed, null and void; these are "irritant" laws. Laws in general, and irritant laws in particular, are not retroactive, unless such is expressly declared by the legislator to be the case. The publication or promulgation of the law has a double aspect: law must be brought to the knowledge of the community in order that the latter may be able to observe it, and in this consists the publication. But there may be legal forms of publication, requisite and necessary, and in this consists the promulgation properly so called (see PROMULGATION). Whatever may be said about the forms used in the past, today the promulgation of general ecclesiastical laws is effected exclusively by the insertion of the law in the official publication of the Holy See, the "Acta Apostolical Sedis", in compliance with the Constitution "Promulgandi", of Pius X, dated 29 September, 1908, except in certain specifically mentioned cases. The law takes effect and is binding on all members of the community as soon as it is promulgated, allowing for the time morally necessary for it to become known, unless the legislator has fixed a special time at which it is to come into force.

No one is presumed to be ignorant of the law; only ignorance of fact. not ignorance of law, is excusable (Reg. 1:3 jur. in VI). Everyone subject to the legislator is bound in conscience to observe the law. A violation of the law, either by omission or by act, is punishable with a penalty (q.v.). These penalties may be settled beforehand by the legislator, or they may be left to the discretion of the judge who imposes them. A violation of the moral law or what one's conscience judges to be the moral law is a sin; a violation of the exterior penal law, in addition to the sin, renders one liable to a punishment or penalty; if the will of the legislator is only to oblige the offender to submit to the penalty, the law is said to be "purely penal"; such are some of the laws adopted by civil legislatures, and it is generally admitted that some ecclesiastical laws are of this kind. As baptism is the gate of entrance to the ecclesiastical society, all those who are baptized, even non-Catholics, are in principle subject to the laws of the Church; in practice the question arises only when certain acts of heretics and schismatics come before Catholic tribunals; as a general rule an irritant law is enforced in such a case, unless the legislator has exempted them from its observance, for instance, for the form of marriage. General laws therefore, bind all Catholics wherever they may be. In the case of particular laws as one is subject to them in virtue of one's domicile, or even quasi-domicile, passing strangers are not subject to them, except in the case of acts performed within the territory.

The role of the legislator does not end with the promulgation of the law; it is his office to explain and interpret it (declaratio, interpretatio legis). The interpretation is "official" (authentica) or even "necessary", when it is given by the legislator or by some one authorized by him for that purpose; it is "customary", when it springs from usage or habit; it is "doctrinal", when it is based on the authority of the learned writers or the decisions of the tribunals. The official interpretation alone has the force of law. According to the result, the interpretation is said to be "comprehensive, extensive, restrictive, corrective," expressions easily understood. The legislator, and in the case of particular laws the superior, remains master of the law; he can suppress it either totally (abrogation), or partially (derogation), or he can combine it with a new law which suppresses in the first law all that is incompatible with the second (abrogation). Laws co-exist as far as they are reconcilable; the more recent modifies the more ancient, but a particular law is not suppressed by a general law, unless the fact is stated expressly. A law can also cease when its purpose and end cease, or even when it is too difficult to be observed by the generality of the subjects; it then falls into desuetude (see CUSTOM).

In every society, but especially in a society so vast and varied as the Church, it is impossible for every law to be applicable always and in all cases. Without suppressing the law, the legislator can permanently exempt from it certain persons or certain groups, or certain matters, or even extend the rights of certain subjects; all these concessions are known as privileges. In the same manner the legislator can derogate from the law in special cases; this is called a dispensation. Indults or the powers that the bishops of the Catholic world receive from the Holy See, to regulate the various cases that may arise in the administration of their dioceses, belong to the category of privileges; together with the dispensations granted directly by the Holy See, they eliminate any excessive rigidity of the law, and ensure to ecclesiastical legislation a marvellous facility of application. Without imperilling the rights and prerogatives of the legislator, but on the contrary strengthening them, indults impress more strongly on the law of the Church that humane, broad, merciful character, mindful of the welfare of souls, but also of human weakness, which likens it to the moral law and distinguishes it from civil legislation, which is much more external and inflexible.


It is impossible to draw up a detailed and systematic catalogue of all the works of special value in the study of canon law; the most distinguished canonists are the subject of special articles in this Encyclopedia. Those we have mentioned as commentators of the ancient canonical collections are now of interest only from an historical point of view; but the authors who have written since the Council of Trent are still read with profit; it is in their great works that we find our practical canon law. Among the authors who have written on special chapters of the "Corpus Juris", we must mention (the date refers to the first edition of the works):

Prospero Fagnani, the distinguished secretary of the Sacred Congregation of the Council, "Jus canonicum seu commentaria absolutissima in quinque libros Decretalium" (Rome, 1661), Manuel González Téllez (d. 1649), "Commentaria perpetua in singulos textus juris canonici" (Lyons, 16, 3); the Jesuit Paul Laymann, better known as a moral theologian, "Jus canonicum seu commentaria in libros Decretalium" (Dillingen, 1666); Ubaldo Giraldi, Clerk Regular of the Pious Schools, "Expositio juris pontificii juxta re centiorem Ecclesiae disciplinam" (Rome, 1769).

Among the canonists who have followed the order of the titles of the Decretals:

the Benedictine Louis Engel, professor at Salzburg, "Universum jus canonicum secundum titulos libr. Decretalium" (Salzburg, 1671); the Jesuit Ehrenreich Pirhing, "Universum jus canonicum" etc. (Dillingen, 1645); the Franciscan Anaclet Reiffenstuel, "Jus canonicum universum" (Freising, 170O); the Jesuit James Wiestner, "Institutiones canonical" (Munich, 1705); the two brothers Francis and Benedict Schmier, both Benedictines and professors at Salzburg; Francis wrote "Jurisprudentia canonico-civilis" (Salzburg, 1716); Benedict: "Liber I Decretalium; Lib. II etc." (Salzburg, 1718); the Jesuit Francis Schmalzgrueber, "Jus ecclésiasticum universum" (Dillingen, 1717); Peter Leuren, also a Jesuit, "Forum ecclesiasticum" etc. (Mainz, 1717); Vitus Pichler, a Jesuit, the successor of Schmalzgrueber, "Summa jurisprudential sacrae" (Augsburg, 1723); Eusebius Amort, a Canon Regular, "Elementa juris canonici veteris et modern)" (Ulm, 1757); Amort wrote also among other works of a very personal character; "De origine, progressu . . . indulgentiarum" (Augsburg, 1735); Carlo Sebastiano Berardi, "Commentaria in jus canonicum universum" (Turin, 1766); also his "Institutiones" and his great work "Gratiani canonesgenuini ab apocryphis discreti", (Turin, 1752); James Anthony Zallinger, a Jesuit, "Institutiones juris ecclesiastici maxime privati" (Augsburg, 1791), not so well known as his "Institutionum juris naturalis et ecclesiastici publici libri quinque" (Augsburg, 1784). This same method was followed again in the nineteenth century by Canon Filippo de Angelis, "Praelectiones juris canonici", (Rome, 1877); by his colleague Francesco Santi, "Praelectiones", (Ratisbon, 1884; revised by Martin Leitner, 1903); and E. Grand claude, "Jus canonicum" (Paris, 1882).

The plan of the "Institutiones", in imitation of Lancelotti (Perugia, 1563), has been followed by very many canonists, among whom the principal are:

the learned Antonio Agustin, Archbishop of Tarragona, "Epitome jurispontificu veteris" (Tarragona, 1587); his "De emendatione Gratiani dialogorum libri duo" (Tarragona, 1587), is worthy of mention; Claude Fleury, "Institution au droit ecclésiastique" (Paris, 1676); Zeger Bernard van Espen, "Jus ecclesiasticum universum" (Cologne, 1748); the Benedictine Dominic Schram, "Institutiones juris ecclesiastici" (Augsburg, 1774); Vincenzo Lupoli, "Juris ecclesiastici praelectiones" (Naples, 1777); Giovanni Devoti, titular Archbishop of Carthage, "Institutionum canonicarum libri quatuor" (Rome, 1785); his "Commentary on the Decretals" has only the first three books (Rome, 1803); Cardinal Soglia, "Institutiones juris privati et publici ecclesiastici" (Paris, 1859) and "Institutiones juris publici", (Loreto, 1843); D. Craisson, Vicar-General of Valence, "Manuale compendium totius juris canonici" (Poitiers, 1861).

School manuals in one or two volumes are very numerous and it is impossible to mention all.

We may cite in Italy those of G.C. Ferrari (1847); Vecchiotti (Turin, 1867); De Camillis, (Rome, 1869); Sebastiano Sanguinetti, S.J. (Rome, 1884); Carlo Lombardi (Rome, 1898); Guglielmo Sebastianelli (Rome, 1898), etc. For German speaking countries, Ferdinand Walter (Bonn, 1822); F.M. Permaneder, 1846; Rosshirt, 1858; George Phillips (Ratisbon, 1859: in addition to his large work in eight volumes, 1845 sq.); J. Winckler, 1862 (specially for Switzerland); S. Aichner (Brixen, 1862) specially for Austria; J. F. Schulte (Geissen, 1863); F.H. Vering (Freiburg-im-B., 1874); Isidore Silbernagl (Ratisbon, 1879); H. Laemmer (Freiburg-im-B., 188fi); Phil. Hergenröther (Freiburg-im-B., 1888); T. Hollweck (Freiburg-im-B.. 1905); J. Laurentius (Freiburg-im-B., 1903); D. M. Prummer, 1907; J. B. Sägmüller (Freiburg-im-B., 1904).

For France: H. Icard, Superior of Saint-Sulpice (Paris, 1867); M. Bargilliat (Paris, 1893); F. Deshayes, "Memento juris ecclesiastici" (Paris, 1897). In Belgium: De Braban dere (Bruges, 1903). For English-speaking countries: Smith (New York, 1890); Gignac (Quebec, 1901); Taunton (London, 1906). For Spain: Marian Aguilar (Santo Domingo de la Calzada, 1904); Gonzales Ibarra (Valladolid, 1904).

There are also canonists who have written at considerable length either on the whole canon law, or on special parts of it, in their own particular manner; it is difficult to give a complete list, but we will mention:

Agostino Barbosa (d. 1639), whose works fill at least 30 volumes; J.B. Cardinal Luca (d. 1683), whose immense "Theatrum veritatis" and "Relatio curiae romance" are his most important works; Pignatelli, who has touched on all practical questions in his "Consultationes canoniccae", 11 folio volumes, Geneva, 1668; Prospero Lambertini (Pope Benedict XIV), perhaps the greatest canonist since the Council of Trent; in the nineteenth century we must mention the different writings of Dominique Bouix, 15 volumes, Paris, 1852 sq.; the "Kirchenrecht" of J. F. Schulte, 1856 and of Rudolf v. Scherer, 1886; and above all the great work of Franz Xavier Wernz, General of the Society of Jesus, "Jus decretalium" (Rome, 1898 sq.).

It is impossible to enumerate the special treatises. Among repertoires and dictionaries, it will suffice to cite the "Prompta Bibliotheca" of the Franciscan Ludovico Ferraris (Bologna, 1746); the "Dictionnaire de droit canonique" of Durand de Maillane (Avignon, 1761), continued later by Abbé Andre (Paris, 1847) etc.; finally the other encyclopedias of ecclesiastical sciences wherein canon law has been treated.

On ecclesiastical public law, the best-known hand books are, with Soglia,

T. M. Salzano, "Lezioni di diritto canonico pubblico et private" (Naples, 1845); Camillo Cardinal Tarquini, "Juris ecclesiastici publici institutiones" (Rome, 1860); Felice Cardinal Cavagrus, "Institutiones juris publici ecclesiastici" (Rome, 1888); Msgr. Adolfo Giobbio, "Lezioni di diplomazia ecclesiastics" (Rome, 1899); Emman. de la Peña y Fernéndez, "Jus publicum ecclesiasticum" (Seville, 1900). For an historical view, the chief work is that of Pierre de Marco, Archbishop of Toulouse, "De concordia sacerdotii et imperi" (Paris, 1641).

For the history of canon law considered in its sources and collections, we must mention

the brothers Pietro and Antonio Ballerini of Verona, "De antiquis collectionibus et collectoribus canonum" (Venice, 1757); among the works of St. Leo I, in P.L. LIII; the matter has been recast and completed by Friedrich Maassen, "Geschichte der Quellen und der Literatur des kanonischen Rechts im Abendland", I, (Graz, 1870); for the history from the time of Gratian see J. F. Schulte, "Geschichte der Quellenund der Literatur des kanonischen Rechts von Gratian his zum Gegenwart" (Stuttgart, 1875 sq.), and "Die Lehre von der Quellen des katholiscen Kirchen rechts" (Giessen, 1860); Philip Schneider, "Die Lehre van den Kirchenrechtsquellen" (Ratisbon, 1892), Adolphe Tardif, "Histoire des sources du droit canonique" (Paris, 1887); Franz Laurin, "Introduc tio in Corpus Juris canonici" (Freiburg, 1889). On the history of ecclesiastical discipline and institutions, the principal work is "Ancienne et nouvelle discipline de l'Eglise" by the Oratorian Louis Thomassin (Lyons, 1676), translated into Latin by the author, "Vetus et nova discipline" (Paris, 1688). One may consult with profit A.J. Binterim, "Die vorzüglich sten Denkwurdigkeiten der christkatolischen Kirche" (Mainz, 1825); the "Dizionario di erudizione storico ecclesiastica" by Moroni (Venice, 1840 sq.); also J.W. Bickell, "Geschichte des Kirchenrechts" (Gies sen, 1843); E. Loening, "Geschichte des deutschen Kirchenrechts (Strasburg, 1878); R. Sohm, "Kirchenrecht, I: Die geschichtliche Grundlagen" (1892).

Publication information Written by A. Boudinhon. Transcribed by David K. DeWolf. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume IX. Published 1910. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Nihil Obstat, October 1, 1910. Remy Lafort, Censor. Imprimatur. +John M. Farley, Archbishop of New York

Canon of the Old Testament

Catholic Information


The word canon as applied to the Scriptures has long had a special and consecrated meaning. In its fullest comprehension it signifies the authoritative list or closed number of the writings composed under Divine inspiration, and destined for the well-being of the Church, using the latter word in the wide sense of the theocratic society which began with God's revelation of Himself to the people of Israel, and which finds its ripe development and completion in the Catholic organism. The whole Biblical Canon therefore consists of the canons of the Old and New Testaments. The Greek kanon means primarily a reed, or measuring-rod: by a natural figure it was employed by ancient writers both profane and religious to denote a rule or standard. We find the substantive first applied to the Sacred Scriptures in the fourth century, by St. Athanasius; for its derivatives, the Council of Laodicea of the same period speaks of the kanonika biblia and Athanasius of the biblia kanonizomena. The latter phrase proves that the passive sense of canon -- that of a regulated and defined collection -- was already in use, and this has remained the prevailing connotation of the word in ecclesiastical literature.

The terms protocanonical and deuterocanonical, of frequent usage among Catholic theologians and exegetes, require a word of caution. They are not felicitous, and it would be wrong to infer from them that the Church successively possessed two distinct Biblical Canons. Only in a partial and restricted way may we speak of a first and second Canon. Protocanonical (protos, "first") is a conventional word denoting those sacred writings which have been always received by Christendom without dispute. The protocanonical books of the Old Testament correspond with those of the Bible of the Hebrews, and the Old Testament as received by Protestants. The deuterocanonical (deuteros, "second") are those whose Scriptural character was contested in some quarters, but which long ago gained a secure footing in the Bible of the Catholic Church, though those of the Old Testament are classed by Protestants as the "Apocrypha". These consist of seven books: Tobias, Judith, Baruch, Ecclesiasticus, Wisdom, First and Second Machabees; also certain additions to Esther and Daniel.

It should be noted that protocanonical and deuterocanonical are modern terms, not having been used before the sixteenth century. As they are of cumbersome length, the latter (being frequently used in this article) will be often found in the abbreviated form deutero.

The scope of an article on the sacred Canon may now be seen to be properly limited regarding the process of

what may be ascertained regarding the process of the collection of the sacred writings into bodies or groups which from their very inception were the objects of a greater or less degree of veneration;

the circumstances and manner in which these collections were definitely canonized, or adjudged to have a uniquely Divine and authoritative quality; the vicissitudes which certain compositions underwent in the opinions of individuals and localities before their Scriptural character was universally established.

It is thus seen that canonicity is a correlative of inspiration, being the extrinsic dignity belonging to writings which have been officially declared as of sacred origin and authority. It is antecedently very probable that according as a book was written early or late it entered into a sacred collection and attained a canonical standing. Hence the views of traditionalist and critic (not implying that the traditionalist may not also be critical) on the Canon parallel, and are largely influenced by, their respective hypotheses on the origin of its component members.


It has already been intimated that there is a smaller, or incomplete, and larger, or complete, Old Testament. Both of these were handed down by the Jews; the former by the Palestinian, the latter by the Alexandrian, Hellenist, Jews. The Jewish Bible of today is composed of three divisions, whose titles combined from the current Hebrew name for the complete Scriptures of Judaism: Hat-Torah, Nebiim, wa-Kéthubim, i.e. The Law, the Prophets, and the Writings. This triplication is ancient; it is supposed as long-established in the Mishnah, the Jewish code of unwritten sacred laws reduced to writing, c. A.D. 200. A grouping closely akin to it occurs in the New Testament in Christ's own words, Luke 24:44: "All things must needs be fulfilled, which are written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms concerning me". Going back to the prologue of Ecclesiasticus, prefixed to it about 132 B.C., we find mentioned "the Law, and the Prophets, and others that have followed them". The Torah, or Law, consists of the five Mosaic books, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy. The Prophets were subdivided by the Jews into the Former Prophets [i.e. the prophetico-historical books: Josue, Judges, 1 and 2 Samuel (I and II Kings), and 1 and 2 Kings (III and IV Kings)] and the Latter Prophets (Isaias, Jeremias, Ezechiel, and the twelve minor Prophets, counted by the Hebrews as one book). The Writings, more generally known by a title borrowed from the Greek Fathers, Hagiographa (holy writings), embrace all the remaining books of the Hebrew Bible. Named in the order in which they stand in the current Hebrew text, these are: Psalms, Proverbs, Job, Canticle of Canticles, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, Esther, Daniel, Esdras, Nehemias, or II Esdras, Paralipomenon.

1. Traditional view of the Canon of the Palestinian Jews


In opposition to scholars of more recent views, conservatives do not admit that the Prophets and the Hagiographa represent two successive stages in the formation of the Palestinian Canon. According to this older school, the principle which dictated the separation between the Prophets and the Hagiographa was not of a chronological kind, but one found in the very nature of the respective sacred compositions. That literature was grouped under the Ké-thubim, or Hagiographa, which neither was the direct product of the prophetical order, namely, that comprised in the Latter Prophets, nor contained the history of Israel as interpreted by the same prophetic teachers--narratives classed as the Former Prophets. The Book of Daniel was relegated to the Hagiographa as a work of the prophetic gift indeed, but not of the permanent prophetic office. These same conservative students of the Canon--now scarcely represented outside the Church--maintain, for the reception of the documents composing these groups into the sacred literature of the Israelites, dates which are in general much earlier than those admitted by critics. They place the practical, if not formal, completion of the Palestinian Canon in the era of Esdras (Ezra) and Nehemias, about the middle of the fifth century B.C., while true to their adhesion to a Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch, they insist that the canonization of the five books followed soon after their composition.

Since the traditionalists infer the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch from other sources, they can rely for proof of an early collection of these books chiefly on Deuteronomy 31:9-13, 24-26, where there is question of a books of the law, delivered by Moses to the priests with the command to keep it in the ark and read it to the people on the feast of Tabernacles. But the effort to identify this book with the entire Pentateuch is not convincing to the opponents of Mosaic authorship.

The Remainder of the Palestinian-Jewish Canon

Without being positive on the subject, the advocates of the older views regard it as highly probable that several additions were made to the sacred repertory between the canonization of the Mosaic Torah above described and the Exile (598 B.C.). They cite especially Isaias, xxxiv, 16; II Paralipomenon, xxix, 30; Proverbs, xxv, 1; Daniel, ix, 2. For the period following the Babylonian Exile the conservative argument takes a more confident tone. This was an era of construction, a turning-point in the history of Israel. The completion of the Jewish Canon, by the addition of the Prophets and Hagiographa as bodies to the Law, is attributed by conservatives to Esdras, the priest-scribe and religious leader of the period, abetted by Nehemias, the civil governor; or at least to a school of scribes founded by the former. (Cf. Nehemiah 8-10; 2 Maccabees 2:13, in the Greek original.) Far more arresting in favour of an Esdrine formulation of the Hebrew Bible is a the much discussed passage from Josephus, "Contra Apionem", I, viii, in which the Jewish historian, writing about A.D. 100, registers his conviction and that of his coreligionists--a conviction presumably based on tradition--that the Scriptures of the Palestinian Hebrews formed a closed and sacred collection from the days of the Persian king, Artaxerxes Longiamanus (465-425 B.C.), a contemporary of Esdras. Josephus is the earliest writer who numbers the books of the Jewish Bible. In its present arrangement this contains 40; Josephus arrived at 22 artificially, in order to match the number of letters in the Hebrew alphabet, by means of collocations and combinations borrowed in part from the Septuagint. The conservative exegetes find a confirmatory argument in a statement of the apocryphas Fourth Book of Esdras (xiv, 18-47), under whose legendary envelope they see an historical truth, and a further one in a reference in the Baba Bathra tract of the Babylonian Talmud to hagiographic activity on the part of "the men of the Great Synagogue", and Esdras and Nehemias.

But the Catholic Scripturists who admit an Esdrine Canon are far from allowing that Esdras and his colleagues intended to so close up the sacred library as to bar any possible future accessions. The Spirit of God might and did breathe into later writings, and the presence of the deuterocanonical books in the Church's Canon at once forestalls and answers those Protestant theologians of a preceding generation who claimed that Esdras was a Divine agent for an inviolable fixing and sealing of the Old Testament To this extent at least, Catholic writers on the subject dissent from the drift of the Josephus testimony. And while there is what may be called a consensus of Catholic exegetes of the conservative type on an Esdrine or quasi-Esdrine formulation of the canon so far as the existing material permitted it, this agreement is not absolute; Kaulen and Danko, favouring a later completion, are the notable exceptions among the above-mentioned scholars.

2. Critical views of the formation of the Palestinian Canon

Its three constituent bodies, the Law, Prophets, and Hagiographa, represent a growth and correspond to three periods more or less extended. The reason for the isolation of the Hagiographa from the Prophets was therefore mainly chronological. The only division marked off clearly by intrinsic features is the legal element of the Old Testament, viz., the Pentateuch.

The Torah, or Law

Until the reign of King Josias, and the epoch-making discovery of "the book of the law" in the Temple (621 B.C.), say the critical exegetes, there was in Israel no written code of laws or other work, universally acknowledged as of supreme and Divine authority. This "book of the law" was practically identical with Deuteronomy, and its recognition or canonization consisted in the solemn pact entered into by Josias and the people of Juda, described in 2 Kings 23. That a written sacred Torah was previously unknown among the Israelites, is demonstrated by the negative evidence of the earlier prophets, by the absence of any such factor from the religious reform undertaken by Ezechias (Hezekiah), while it was the mainspring of that carried out by Josias, and lastly by the plain surprise and consternation of the latter ruler at the finding of such a work. This argument, in fact, is the pivot of the current system of Pentateuchal criticism, and will be developed more at length in the article on the Pentateuch, as also the thesis attacking the Mosaic authorship and promulgation of the latter as a whole. The actual publication of the entire Mosaic code, according to the dominant hypothesis, did not occur until the days of Esdras, and is narrated in chapters viii-x of the second book bearing that name. In this connection must be mentioned the argument from the Samaritan Pentateuch to establish that the Esdrine Canon took in nothing beyond the Hexateuch, i.e. the Pentateuch plus Josue. (See PENTATEUCH; SAMARITANS.)

The Nebiim, or Prophets

There is no direct light upon the time or manner in which the second stratum of the Hebrew Canon was finished. The creation of the above-mentioned Samaritan Canon (c. 432 B.C.) may furnish a terminus a quo; perhaps a better one is the date of the expiration of prophecy about the close of the fifth century before Christ. For the other terminus the lowest possible date is that of the prologue to Ecclesiasticus (c. 132 B.C.), which speaks of "the Law", and the Prophets, and the others that have followed them". But compare Ecclesiasticus itself, chapters xlvi-xlix, for an earlier one.

The Kéthubim, or Hagiographa Completes of the Jewish Canon

Critical opinion as to date ranged from c. 165 B.C. to the middle of the second century of our era (Wildeboer). The Catholic scholars Jahn, Movers, Nickes, Danko, Haneberg, Aicher, without sharing all the views of the advanced exegetes, regard the Hebrew Hagiographa as not definitely settled till after Christ. It is an incontestable fact that the sacredness of certain parts of the Palestinian Bible (Esther, Ecclesiastes, Canticle of Canticles) was disputed by some rabbis as late as the second century of the Christian Era (Mishna, Yadaim, III, 5; Babylonian Talmud, Megilla, fol. 7). However differing as to dates, the critics are assured that the distinction between the Hagiographa and the Prophetic Canon was one essentially chronological. It was because the Prophets already formed a sealed collection that Ruth, Lamentations, and Daniel, though naturally belonging to it, could not gain entrance, but had to take their place with the last-formed division, the Kéthubim.

3. The Protocanonical Books and the New Testament

The absence of any citations from Esther, Ecclesiastes, and Canticles may be reasonably explained by their unsuitability for New Testament purposes, and is further discounted by the non-citation of the two books of Esdras. Abdias, Nahum, and Sophonias, while not directly honoured, are included in the quotations from the other minor Prophets by virtue of the traditional unity of that collection. On the other hand, such frequent terms as "the Scripture", the "Scriptures", "the holy Scriptures", applied in the New Testament to the other sacred writings, would lead us to believe that the latter already formed a definite fixed collection; but, on the other, the reference in St. Luke to "the Law and the Prophets and the Psalms", while demonstrating the fixity of the Torah and the Prophets as sacred groups, does not warrant us in ascribing the same fixity to the third division, the Palestinian-Jewish Hagiographa. If, as seems certain, the exact content of the broader catalogue of the Old Testament Scriptures (that comprising the deutero books) cannot be established from the New Testament, a fortiori there is no reason to expect that it should reflect the precise extension of the narrower and Judaistic Canon. We are sure, of course, that all the Hagiographa were eventually, before the death of the last Apostle, divinely committed to the Church as Holy Scripture, but we known this as a truth of faith, and by theological deduction, not from documentary evidence in the New Testament The latter fact has a bearing against the Protestant claim that Jesus approved and transmitted en bloc an already defined Bible of the Palestinian Synagogue.

4. Authors and Standards of Canonicity among the Jews

Though the Old Testament reveals no formal notion of inspiration, the later Jews at least must have possessed the idea (cf. 2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:21). There is an instance of a Talmudic doctor distinguishing between a composition "given by the wisdom of the Holy Spirit" and one supposed to be the product of merely human wisdom. But as to our distinct concept of canonicity, it is a modern idea, and even the Talmud gives no evidence of it. To characterize a book which held no acknowledged place in the divine library, the rabbis spoke of it as "defiling the hands", a curious technical expression due probably to the desire to prevent any profane touching of the sacred roll. But though the formal idea of canonicity was wanting among the Jews the fact existed. Regarding the sources of canonicity among the Hebrew ancients, we are left to surmise an analogy. There are both psychological and historical reasons against the supposition that the Old Testament canon grew spontaneously by a kind of instinctive public recognition of inspired books. True, it is quite reasonable to assume that the prophetic office in Israel carried its own credentials, which in a large measure extended to its written compositions. But there were many pseduo-prophets in the nation, and so some authority was necessary to draw the line between the true and the false prophetical writings. And an ultimate tribunal was also needed to set its seal upon the miscellaneous and in some cases mystifying literature embraced in the Hagiographa. Jewish tradition, as illustrated by the already cited Josephus, Baba Bathra, and pseudo-Esdras data, points to authority as the final arbiter of what was Scriptural and what not. The so-called Council of Jamnia (c. A.D. 90) has reasonably been taken as having terminated the disputes between rival rabbinic schools concerning the canonicity of Canticles. So while the intuitive sense and increasingly reverent consciousness of the faithful element of Israel could, and presumably did, give a general impulse and direction to authority, we must conclude that it was the word of official authority which actually fixed the limits of the Hebrew Canon, and here, broadly speaking, the advanced and conservative exegetes meet on common ground. However the case may have been for the Prophets, the preponderance of evidence favours a late period as that in which the Hagiographa were closed, a period when the general body of Scribes dominated Judaism, sitting "in the chair of Moses", and alone having the authority and prestige for such action. The term general body of Scribes has been used advisedly; contemporary scholars gravely suspect, when they do not entirely reject, the "Great Synagogue" of rabbinic tradition, and the matter lay outside the jurisdiction of the Sanhedrim.

As a touchstone by which uncanonical and canonical works were discriminated, an important influence was that of the Pentateuchal Law. This was always the Canon par excellence of the Israelites. To the Jews of the Middle Ages the Torah was the inner sanctuary, or Holy of Holies, while the Prophets were the Holy Place, and the Kéthubim only the outer court of the Biblical temple, and this medieval conception finds ample basis in the pre-eminence allowed to the Law by the rabbis of the Talmudic age. Indeed, from Esdras downwards the Law, as the oldest portion of the Canon, and the formal expression of God's commands, received the highest reverence. The Cabbalists of the second century after Christ, and later schools, regarded the other section of the Old Testament as merely the expansion and interpretation of the Pentateuch. We may be sure, then, that the chief test of canonicity, at least for the Hagiographa, was conformity with the Canon par excellence, the Pentateuch. It is evident, in addition, that no book was admitted which had not been composed in Hebrew, and did not possess the antiquity and prestige of a classic age, or name at least. These criteria are negative and exclusive rather than directive. The impulse of religious feeling or liturgical usage must have been the prevailing positive factors in the decision. But the negative tests were in part arbitrary, and an intuitive sense cannot give the assurance of Divine certification. Only later was the infallible voice to come, and then it was to declare that the Canon of the Synagogue, though unadulterated indeed, was incomplete.


The most striking difference between the Catholic and Protestant Bibles is the presence in the former of a number of writings which are wanting in the latter and also in the Hebrew Bible, which became the Old Testament of Protestantism. These number seven books: Tobias (Tobit), Judith, Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, Baruch, I and II Machabees, and three documents added to protocanonical books, viz., the supplement to Esther, from x, 4, to the end, the Canticle of the Three Youths (Song of the Three Children) in Daniel, iii, and the stories of Susanna and the Elders and Bel and the Dragon, forming the closing chapters of the Catholic version of that book. Of these works, Tobias and Judith were written originally in Aramaic, perhaps in Hebrew; Baruch and I Machabees in Hebrew, while Wisdom and II Machabees were certainly composed in Greek. The probabilities favour Hebrew as the original language of the addition to Esther, and Greek for the enlargements of Daniel.

The ancient Greek Old Testament known as the Septuagint was the vehicle which conveyed these additional Scriptures into the Catholic Church. The Septuagint version was the Bible of the Greek-speaking, or Hellenist, Jews, whose intellectual and literary centre was Alexandria (see SEPTUAGINT). The oldest extant copies date from the fourth and fifth centuries of our era, and were therefore made by Christian hands; nevertheless scholars generally admit that these faithfully represent the Old Testament as it was current among the Hellenist or Alexandrian Jews in the age immediately preceding Christ. These venerable manuscripts of the Septuagint vary somewhat in their content outside the Palestinian Canon, showing that in Alexandrian-Jewish circles the number of admissible extra books was not sharply determined either by tradition or by authority. However, aside from the absence of Machabees from the Codex Vaticanus (the very oldest copy of the Greek Old Testament), all the entire manuscripts contain all the deutero writings; where the manuscript Septuagints differ from one another, with the exception noted, it is in a certain excess above the deuterocanonical books. It is a significant fact that in all these Alexandrian Bibles the traditional Hebrew order is broken up by the interspersion of the additional literature among the other books, outside the law, thus asserting for the extra writings a substantial equality of rank and privilege.

It is pertinent to ask the motives which impelled the Hellenist Jews to thus, virtually at least, canonize this considerable section of literature, some of it very recent, and depart so radically from the Palestinian tradition. Some would have it that not the Alexandrian, but the Palestinian, Jews departed from the Biblical tradition. The Catholic writers Nickes, Movers, Danko, and more recently Kaulen and Mullen, have advocated the view that originally the Palestinian Canon must have included all the deuterocanonicals, and so stood down to the time of the Apostles (Kaulen, c. 100 B.C.), when, moved by the fact that the Septuagint had become the Old Testament of the Church, it was put under ban by the Jerusalem Scribes, who were actuated moreover (thus especially Kaulen) by hostility to the Hellenistic largeness of spirit and Greek composition of our deuterocanonical books. These exegetes place much reliance on St. Justin Martyr's statement that the Jews had mutilated Holy Writ, a statement that rests on no positive evidence. They adduce the fact that certain deutero books were quoted with veneration, and even in a few cases as Scriptures, by Palestinian or Babylonian doctors; but the private utterances of a few rabbis cannot outweigh the consistent Hebrew tradition of the canon, attested by Josephus--although he himself was inclined to Hellenism--and even by the Alexandrian-Jewish author of IV Esdras. We are therefore forced to admit that the leaders of Alexandrian Judaism showed a notable independence of Jerusalem tradition and authority in permitting the sacred boundaries of the Canon, which certainly had been fixed for the Prophets, to be broken by the insertion of an enlarged Daniel and the Epistle of Baruch. On the assumption that the limits of the Palestinian Hagiographa remained undefined until a relatively late date, there was less bold innovation in the addition of the other books, but the wiping out of the lines of the triple division reveals that the Hellenists were ready to extend the Hebrew Canon, if not establish a new official one of their own.

On their human side these innovations are to be accounted for by the free spirit of the Hellenist Jews. Under the influence of Greek thought they had conceived a broader view of Divine inspiration than that of their Palestinian brethren, and refused to restrict the literary manifestations of the Holy Ghost to a certain terminus of time and the Hebrew form of language. The Book of Wisdom, emphatically Hellenist in character, presents to us Divine wisdom as flowing on from generation to generation and making holy souls and prophets (vii, 27, in the Greek). Philo, a typical Alexandrian-Jewish thinker, has even an exaggerated notion of the diffusion of inspiration (Quis rerum divinarum hæres, 52; ed. Lips., iii, 57; De migratione Abrahæ, 11,299; ed. Lips. ii, 334). But even Philo, while indicating acquaintance with the deutero literature, nowhere cites it in his voluminous writings. True, he does not employ several books of the Hebrew Canon; but there is a natural presumption that if he had regarded the additional works as being quite on the same plane as the others, he would not have failed to quote so stimulating and congenial a production as the Book of Wisdom. Moreover, as has been pointed out by several authorities, the independent spirit of the Hellenists could not have gone so far as to setup a different official Canon from that of Jerusalem, without having left historical traces of such a rupture. So, from the available data we may justly infer that, while the deuterocanonicals were admitted as sacred by the Alexandrian Jews, they possessed a lower degree of sanctity and authority than the longer accepted books, i.e., the Palestinian Hagiographa and the Prophets, themselves inferior to the Law.


The most explicit definition of the Catholic Canon is that given by the Council of Trent, Session IV, 1546. For the Old Testament its catalogue reads as follows:

The five books of Moses (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy), Josue, Judges, Ruth, the four books of Kings, two of Paralipomenon, the first and second of Esdras (which latter is called Nehemias), Tobias, Judith, Esther, Job, the Davidic Psalter (in number one hundred and fifty Psalms), Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, the Canticle of Canticles, Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, Isaias, Jeremias, with Baruch, Ezechiel, Daniel, the twelve minor Prophets (Osee, Joel, Amos, Abdias, Jonas, Micheas, Nahum, Habacue, Sophonias, Aggeus, Zacharias, Malachias), two books of Machabees, the first and second.

The order of books copies that of the Council of Florence, 1442, and in its general plan is that of the Septuagint. The divergence of titles from those found in the Protestant versions is due to the fact that the official Latin Vulgate retained the forms of the Septuagint.


The Tridentine decrees from which the above list is extracted was the first infallible and effectually promulgated pronouncement on the Canon, addressed to the Church Universal. Being dogmatic in its purport, it implies that the Apostles bequeathed the same Canon to the Church, as a part of the depositum fedei. But this was not done by way of any formal decision; we should search the pages of the New Testament in vain for any trace of such action. The larger Canon of the Old Testament passed through the Apostles' hands to the church tacitly, by way of their usage and whole attitude toward its components; an attitude which, for most of the sacred writings of the Old Testament, reveals itself in the New, and for the rest, must have exhibited itself in oral utterances, or at least in tacit approval of the special reverence of the faithful. Reasoning backward from the status in which we find the deutero books in the earliest ages of post-Apostolic Christianity, we rightly affirm that such a status points of Apostolic sanction, which in turn must have rested on revelation either by Christ or the Holy Spirit. For the deuterocanonicals at least, we needs must have recourse to this legitimate prescriptive argument, owing to the complexity and inadequacy of the New Testament data.

All the books of the Hebrew Old Testament are cited in the New except those which have been aptly called the Antilegomena of the Old Testament, viz., Esther, Ecclesiastes, and Canticles; moreover Esdras and Nehemias are not employed. The admitted absence of any explicit citation of the deutero writings does not therefore prove that they were regarded as inferior to the above-mentioned works in the eyes of New Testament personages and authors. The deutero literature was in general unsuited to their purposes, and some consideration should be given to the fact that even at its Alexandrian home it was not quoted by Jewish writers, as we saw in the case of Philo. The negative argument drawn from the non-citation of the deuterocanonicals in the New Testament is especially minimized by the indirect use made of them by the same Testament. This takes the form of allusions and reminiscences, and shows unquestionably that the Apostles and Evangelists were acquainted with the Alexandrian increment, regarded its books as at least respectable sources, and wrote more or less under its influence. A comparison of Hebrews, xi and II Machabees, vi and vii reveals unmistakable references in the former to the heroism of the martyrs glorified in the latter. There are close affinities of thought, and in some cases also of language, between 1 Peter 1:6-7, and Wisdom 3:5-6; Hebrews 1:3, and Wisdom 7:26-27; 1 Corinthians 10:9-10, and Judith 8:24-25; 1 Corinthians 6:13, and Ecclesiasticus 36:20.

Yet the force of the direct and indirect employment of Old Testament writings by the New is slightly impaired by the disconcerting truth that at least one of the New Testament authors, St. Jude, quotes explicitly from the "Book of Henoch", long universally recognized as apocryphal, see verse 14, while in verse 9 he borrows from another apocryphal narrative, the "Assumption of Moses". The New Testament quotations from the Old are in general characterized by a freedom and elasticity regarding manner and source which further ten to diminish their weight as proofs of canonicity. But so far as concerns the great majority of the Palestinian Hagiographa--a fortiori, the Pentateuch and Prophets--whatever want of conclusiveness there may be in the New Testament, evidence of their canonical standing is abundantly supplemented from Jewish sources alone, in the series of witnesses beginning with the Mishnah and running back through Josephus and Philo to the translation of the above books for the Hellenist Greeks. But for the deuterocanonical literature, only the last testimony speaks as a Jewish confirmation. However, there are signs that the Greek version was not deemed by its readers as a closed Bible of definite sacredness in all its parts, but that its somewhat variable contents shaded off in the eyes of the Hellenists from the eminently sacred Law down to works of questionable divinity, such as III Machabees.

This factor should be considered in weighing a certain argument. A large number of Catholic authorities see a canonization of the deuteros in a supposed wholesale adoption and approval, by the Apostles, of the Greek, and therefore larger, Old Testament The argument is not without a certain force; the New Testament undoubtedly shows a preference for the Septuagint; out of the 350 texts from the Old Testament, 300 favour the language of the Greek version rather than that of the Hebrew. But there are considerations which bid us hesitate to admit an Apostolic adoption of the Septuagint en bloc. As remarked above, there are cogent reasons for believing that it was not a fixed quantity at the time. The existing oldest representative manuscripts are not entirely identical in the books they contain. Moreover, it should be remembered that at the beginning of our era, and for some time later, complete sets of any such voluminous collection as the Septuagint in manuscript would be extremely rare; the version must have been current in separate books or groups of books, a condition favourable to a certain variability of compass. So neither a fluctuating Septuagint nor an inexplicit New Testament conveys to us the exact extension of the pre-Christian Bible transmitted by the Apostles to the Primitive Church. It is more tenable to conclude to a selective process under the guidance of the Holy Ghost, and a process completed so late in Apostolic times that the New Testament fails to reflect its mature result regarding either the number or note of sanctity of the extra-Palestinian books admitted. To historically learn the Apostolic Canon of the Old Testament we must interrogate less sacred but later documents, expressing more explicitly the belief of the first ages of Christianity.


The sub-Apostolic writings of Clement, Polycarp, the author of the Epistle of Barnabas, of the pseudo-Clementine homilies, and the "Shepherd" of Hermas, contain implicit quotations from or allusions to all the deuterocanonicals except Baruch (which anciently was often united with Jeremias) and I Machabees and the additions to David. No unfavourable argument can be drawn from the loose, implicit character of these citations, since these Apostolic Fathers quote the protocanonical Scriptures in precisely the same manner. Coming down to the next age, that of the apologists, we find Baruch cited by Athenagoras as a prophet. St. Justin Martyr is the first to note that the Church has a set of Old Testament Scriptures different from the Jews', and also the earliest to intimate the principle proclaimed by later writers, namely, the self-sufficiency of the Church in establishing the Canon; its independence of the Synagogue in this respect. The full realization of this truth came slowly, at least in the Orient, where there are indications that in certain quarters the spell of Palestinian-Jewish tradition was not fully cast off for some time. St. Melito, Bishop of Sardis (c. 170), first drew up a list of the canonical books of the Old Testament While maintaining the familiar arrangement of the Septuagint, he says that he verified his catalogue by inquiry among Jews; Jewry by that time had everywhere discarded the Alexandrian books, and Melito's Canon consists exclusively of the protocanonicals minus Esther. It should be noticed, however, that the document to which this catalogue was prefixed is capable of being understood as having an anti-Jewish polemical purpose, in which case Melito's restricted canon is explicable on another ground. St. Irenæus, always a witness of the first rank, on account of his broad acquaintance with ecclesiastical tradition, vouches that Baruch was deemed on the same footing as Jeremias, and that the narratives of Susanna and Bel and the Dragon were ascribed to Daniel. The Alexandrian tradition is represented by the weighty authority of Origen. Influenced, doubtless, by the Alexandrian-Jewish usage of acknowledging in practice the extra writings as sacred while theoretically holding to the narrower Canon of Palestine, his catalogue of the Old Testament Scriptures contains only the protocanonical books, though it follows the order of the Septuagint. Nevertheless Origen employs all the deuterocanonicals as Divine Scriptures, and in his letter of Julius Africanus defends the sacredness of Tobias, Judith, and the fragments of Daniel, at the same time implicitly asserting the autonomy of the Church in fixing the Canon (see references in Cornely). In his Hexaplar edition of the Old Testament all the deuteros find a place. The sixth-century Biblical manuscript known as the "Codex Claromontanus" contains a catalogue to which both Harnack and Zahn assign an Alexandrian origin, about contemporary with Origen. At any rate it dates from the period under examination and comprises all the deuterocanonical books, with IV Machabees besides. St. Hippolytus (d. 236) may fairly be considered as representing the primitive Roman tradition. He comments on the Susanna chapter, often quotes Wisdom as the work of Solomon, and employs as Sacred Scripture Baruch and the Machabees. For the West African Church the larger canon has two strong witnesses in Tertullian and St. Cyprian. All the deuteros except Tobias, Judith, and the addition to Esther, are Biblically used in the works of these Fathers. (With regard to the employment of apocryphal writings in this age see under APOCRYPHA.)


In this period the position of the deuterocanonical literature is no longer as secure as in the primitive age. The doubts which arose should be attributed largely to a reaction against the apocryphal or pseudo-Biblical writings with which the East especially had been flooded by heretical and other writers. Negatively, the situation became possible through the absence of any Apostolic or ecclesiastical definition of the Canon. The definite and inalterable determination of the sacred sources, like that of all Catholic doctrines, was in the Divine economy left to gradually work itself out under the stimulus of questions and opposition. Alexandria, with its elastic Scriptures, had from the beginning been a congenial field for apocryphal literature, and St. Athanasius, the vigilant pastor of that flock, to protect it against the pernicious influence, drew up a catalogue of books with the values to be attached to each. First, the strict canon and authoritative source of truth is the Jewish Old Testament, Esther excepted. Besides, there are certain books which the Fathers had appointed to be read to catechumens for edification and instruction; these are the Wisdom of Solomon, the Wisdom of Sirach (Ecclesiasticus), Esther, Judith, Tobias, the Didache, or Doctrine of the Apostles, the Shepherd of Hermas. All others are apocrypha and the inventions of heretics (Festal Epistle for 367). Following the precedent of Origen and the Alexandrian tradition, the saintly doctor recognized no other formal canon of the Old Testament than the Hebrew one; but also, faithful to the same tradition, he practically admitted the deutero books to a Scriptural dignity, as is evident from his general usage. At Jerusalem there was a renascence, perhaps a survival, of Jewish ideas, the tendency there being distinctly unfavourable to the deuteros. St. Cyril of that see, while vindicating for the Church the right to fix the Canon, places them among the apocrypha and forbids all books to be read privately which are not read in the churches. In Antioch and Syria the attitude was more favourable. St. Epiphanius shows hesitation about the rank of the deuteros; he esteemed them, but they had not the same place as the Hebrew books in his regard. The historian Eusebius attests the widespread doubts in his time; he classes them as antilegomena, or disputed writings, and, like Athanasius, places them in a class intermediate between the books received by all and the apocrypha. The 59th (or 60th) canon of the provincial Council of Laodicea (the authenticity of which however is contested) gives a catalogue of the Scriptures entirely in accord with the ideas of St. Cyril of Jerusalem. On the other hand, the Oriental versions and Greek manuscripts of the period are more liberal; the extant ones have all the deuterocanonicals and, in some cases, certain apocrypha.

The influence of Origen's and Athanasius's restricted canon naturally spread to the West. St. Hilary of Poitiers and Rufinus followed their footsteps, excluding the deuteros from canonical rank in theory, but admitting them in practice. The latter styles them "ecclesiastical" books, but in authority unequal to the other Scriptures. St. Jerome cast his weighty suffrage on the side unfavourable to the disputed books. In appreciating his attitude we must remember that Jerome lived long in Palestine, in an environment where everything outside the Jewish Canon was suspect, and that, moreover, he had an excessive veneration for the Hebrew text, the Hebraica veritas as he called it. In his famous "Prologus Galeatus", or Preface to his translation of Samuel and Kings, he declares that everything not Hebrew should be classed with the apocrypha, and explicitly says that Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, Tobias, and Judith are not on the Canon. These books, he adds, are read in the churches for the edification of the people, and not for the confirmation of revealed doctrine. An analysis of Jerome's expressions on the deuterocanonicals, in various letters and prefaces, yields the following results: first, he strongly doubted their inspiration; secondly, the fact that he occasionally quotes them, and translated some of them as a concession to ecclesiastical tradition, is an involuntary testimony on his part to the high standing these writings enjoyed in the Church at large, and to the strength of the practical tradition which prescribed their readings in public worship. Obviously, the inferior rank to which the deuteros were relegated by authorities like Origen, Athanasius, and Jerome, was due to too rigid a conception of canonicity, one demanding that a book, to be entitled to this supreme dignity, must be received by all, must have the sanction of Jewish antiquity, and must moreover be adapted not only to edification, but also to the "confirmation of the doctrine of the Church", to borrow Jerome's phrase.

But while eminent scholars and theorists were thus depreciating the additional writings, the official attitude of the Latin Church, always favourable to them, kept the majestic tenor of its way. Two documents of capital importance in the history of the canon constitute the first formal utterance of papal authority on the subject. The first is the so-called "Decretal of Gelasius", de recipiendis et non recipiendis libris, the essential part of which is now generally attributed to a synod convoked by Pope Damasus in the year 382. The other is the Canon of Innocent I, sent in 405 to a Gallican bishop in answer to an inquiry. Both contain all the deuterocanonicals, without any distinction, and are identical with the catalogue of Trent. The African Church, always a staunch supporter of the contested books, found itself in entire accord with Rome on this question. Its ancient version, the Vetus Latina (less correctly the Itala), had admitted all the Old Testament Scriptures. St. Augustine seems to theoretically recognize degrees of inspiration; in practice he employs protos and deuteros without any discrimination whatsoever. Moreover in his "De Doctrinâ Christianâ" he enumerates the components of the complete Old Testament. The Synod of Hippo (393) and the three of Carthage (393, 397, and 419), in which, doubtless, Augustine was the leading spirit, found it necessary to deal explicitly with the question of the Canon, and drew up identical lists from which no sacred books are excluded. These councils base their canon on tradition and liturgical usage. For the Spanish Church valuable testimony is found in the work of the heretic Priscillian, "Liber de Fide et Apocryphis"; it supposes a sharp line existing between canonical and uncanonical works, and that the Canon takes in all the deuteros.


This period exhibits a curious exchange of opinions between the West and the East, while ecclesiastical usage remained unchanged, at least in the Latin Church. During this intermediate age the use of St. Jerome's new version of the Old Testament (the Vulgate) became widespread in the Occident. With its text went Jerome's prefaces disparaging the deuterocanonicals, and under the influence of his authority the West began to distrust these and to show the first symptoms of a current hostile to their canonicity. On the other hand, the Oriental Church imported a Western authority which had canonized the disputed books, viz., the decree of Carthage, and from this time there is an increasing tendency among the Greeks to place the deuteros on the same level with the others--a tendency, however, due more to forgetfulness of the old distinction than to deference to the Council of Carthage.


The Greek Church

The result of this tendency among the Greeks was that about the beginning of the twelfth century they possessed a canon identical with that of the Latins, except that it took in the apocryphal III Machabees. That all the deuteros were liturgically recognized in the Greek Church at the era of the schism in the ninth century, is indicated by the "Syntagma Canonum" of Photius.

The Latin Church

In the Latin Church, all through the Middle Ages we find evidence of hesitation about the character of the deuterocanonicals. There is a current friendly to them, another one distinctly unfavourable to their authority and sacredness, while wavering between the two are a number of writers whose veneration for these books is tempered by some perplexity as to their exact standing, and among those we note St. Thomas Aquinas. Few are found to unequivocally acknowledge their canonicity. The prevailing attitude of Western medieval authors is substantially that of the Greek Fathers. The chief cause of this phenomenon in the West is to be sought in the influence, direct and indirect, of St. Jerome's depreciating Prologus. The compilatory "Glossa Ordinaria" was widely read and highly esteemed as a treasury of sacred learning during the Middle Ages; it embodied the prefaces in which the Doctor of Bethlehem had written in terms derogatory to the deuteros, and thus perpetuated and diffused his unfriendly opinion. And yet these doubts must be regarded as more or less academic. The countless manuscript copies of the Vulgate produced by these ages, with a slight, probably accidental, exception, uniformly embrace the complete Old Testament Ecclesiastical usage and Roman tradition held firmly to the canonical equality of all parts of the Old Testament There is no lack of evidence that during this long period the deuteros were read in the churches of Western Christendom. As to Roman authority, the catalogue of Innocent I appears in the collection of ecclesiastical canons sent by Pope Adrian I to Charlemagne, and adopted in 802 as the law of the Church in the Frankish Empire; Nicholas I, writing in 865 to the bishops of France, appeals to the same decree of Innocent as the ground on which all the sacred books are to be received.


The Council of Florence (1442)

In 1442, during the life, and with the approval, of this Council, Eugenius IV issued several Bulls, or decrees, with a view to restore the Oriental schismatic bodies to communion with Rome, and according to the common teaching of theologians these documents are infallible states of doctrine. The "Decretum pro Jacobitis" contains a complete list of the books received by the Church as inspired, but omits, perhaps advisedly, the terms canon and canonical. The Council of Florence therefore taught the inspiration of all the Scriptures, but did not formally pass on their canonicity.

The Council of Trent's Definition of the Canon (1546)

It was the exigencies of controversy that first led Luther to draw a sharp line between the books of the Hebrew Canon and the Alexandrian writings. In his disputation with Eck at Leipzig, in 1519, when his opponent urged the well-known text from II Machabees in proof of the doctrine of purgatory, Luther replied that the passage had no binding authority since the books was outside the Canon. In the first edition of Luther's Bible, 1534, the deuteros were relegated, as apocrypha, to a separate place between the two Testaments. To meet this radical departure of the Protestants, and as well define clearly the inspired sources from which the Catholic Faith draws its defence, the Council of Trent among its first acts solemnly declared as "sacred and canonical" all the books of the Old and New Testaments "with all their parts as they have been used to be read in the churches, and as found in the ancient vulgate edition". During the deliberations of the Council there never was any real question as to the reception of all the traditional Scripture. Neither--and this is remarkable--in the proceedings is there manifest any serious doubt of the canonicity of the disputed writings. In the mind of the Tridentine Fathers they had been virtually canonized, by the same decree of Florence, and the same Fathers felt especially bound by the action of the preceding ecumenical synod. The Council of Trent did not enter into an examination of the fluctuations in the history of the Canon. Neither did it trouble itself about questions of authorship or character of contents. True to the practical genius of the Latin Church, it based its decision on immemorial tradition as manifested in the decrees of previous councils and popes, and liturgical reading, relying on traditional teaching and usage to determine a question of tradition. The Tridentine catalogue has been given above.

The Vatican Council (1870)

The great constructive Synod of Trent had put the sacredness and canonicity of the whole traditional Bible forever beyond the permissibility of doubt on the part of Catholics. By implication it had defined that Bible's plenary inspiration also. The Vatican Council took occasion of a recent error on inspiration to remove any lingering shadow of uncertainty on this head; it formally ratified the action of Trent and explicitly defined the Divine inspiration of all the books with their parts.



The Greek Orthodox Church preserved its ancient Canon in practice as well as theory until recent times, when, under the dominant influence of its Russian offshoot, it is shifting its attitude towards the deuterocanonical Scriptures. The rejection of these books by the Russian theologians and authorities is a lapse which began early in the eighteenth century. The Monophysites, Nestorians, Jacobites, Armenians, and Copts, while concerning themselves little with the Canon, admit the complete catalogue and several apocrypha besides.


The Protestant Churches have continued to exclude the deutero writings from their canons, classifying them as "Apocrypha". Presbyterians and Calvinists in general, especially since the Westminster Synod of 1648, have been the most uncompromising enemies of any recognition, and owing to their influence the British and Foreign Bible Society decided in 1826 to refuse to distribute Bibles containing the Apocrypha. Since that time the publication of the deuterocanonicals as an appendix to Protestant Bibles has almost entirely ceased in English-speaking countries. The books still supply lessons for the liturgy of the Church of England, but the number has been lessened by the hostile agitation. There is an Apocrypha appendix to the British Revised Version, in a separate volume. The deuteros are still appended to the German Bibles printed under the auspices of the orthodox Lutherans.

Publication information Written by George J. Reid. Transcribed by Ernie Stefanik. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume III. Published 1908. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Nihil Obstat, November 1, 1908. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York

Canon of the New Testament

Catholic Information

The Catholic New Testament, as defined by the Council of Trent, does not differ, as regards the books contained, from that of all Christian bodies at present. Like the Old Testament, the New has its deuterocanonical books and portions of books, their canonicity having formerly been a subject of some controversy in the Church. These are for the entire books: the Epistle to the Hebrews, that of James, the Second of St. Peter, the Second and Third of John, Jude, and Apocalypse; giving seven in all as the number of the New Testament contested books. The formerly disputed passages are three: the closing section of St. Mark's Gospel, xvi, 9-20 about the apparitions of Christ after the Resurrection; the verses in Luke about the bloody sweat of Jesus, xxii, 43, 44; the Pericope Adulteræ, or narrative of the woman taken in adultery, St. John, vii, 53 to viii, 11. Since the Council of Trent it is not permitted for a Catholic to question the inspiration of these passages.


The idea of a complete and clear-cut canon of the New Testament existing from the beginning, that is from Apostolic times, has no foundation in history. The Canon of the New Testament, like that of the Old, is the result of a development, of a process at once stimulated by disputes with doubters, both within and without the Church, and retarded by certain obscurities and natural hesitations, and which did not reach its final term until the dogmatic definition of the Tridentine Council.

1. The witness of the New Testament to itself: The first collections Those writings which possessed the unmistakable stamp and guarantee of Apostolic origin must from the very first have been specially prized and venerated, and their copies eagerly sought by local Churches and individual Christians of means, in preference to the narratives and Logia, or Sayings of Christ, coming from less authorized sources. Already in the New Testament itself there is some evidence of a certain diffusion of canonical books: II Peter, iii, 15, 16, supposes its readers to be acquainted with some of St. Paul's Epistles; St. John's Gospel implicitly presupposes the existence of the Synoptics (Matthew, Mark, and Luke). There are no indications in the New Testament of a systematic plan for the distribution of the Apostolic compositions, any more than there is of a definite new Canon bequeathed by the Apostles to the Church, or of a strong self-witness to Divine inspiration. Nearly all the New Testament writings were evoked by particular occasions, or addressed to particular destinations. But we may well presume that each of the leading Churches--Antioch, Thessalonica, Alexandria, Corinth, Rome--sought by exchanging with other Christian communities to add to its special treasure, and have publicly read in its religious assemblies all Apostolic writings which came under its knowledge. It was doubtless in this way that the collections grew, and reached completeness within certain limits, but a considerable number of years must have elapsed (and that counting from the composition of the latest book) before all the widely separated Churches of early Christendom possessed the new sacred literature in full. And this want of an organized distribution, secondarily to the absence of an early fixation of the Canon, left room for variations and doubts which lasted far into the centuries. But evidence will presently be given that from days touching on those of the last Apostles there were two well defined bodies of sacred writings of the New Testament, which constituted the firm, irreducible, universal minimum, and the nucleus of its complete Canon: these were the Four Gospels, as the Church now has them, and thirteen Epistles of St. Paul--the Evangelium and the Apostolicum.

2. The principle of canonicity

Before entering into the historical proof for this primitive emergence of a compact, nucleative Canon, it is pertinent to briefly examine this problem: During the formative period what principle operated in the selection of the New Testament writings and their recognition as Divine?--Theologians are divided on this point. This view that Apostolicity was the test of the inspiration during the building up of the New Testament canon, is favoured by the many instances where the early Fathers base the authority of a book on its Apostolic origin, and by the truth that the definitive placing of the contested books on the New Testament catalogue coincided with their general acceptance as of Apostolic authorship. Moreover, the advocates of this hypothesis point out that the Apostles' office corresponded with that of the Prophets of the Old Law, inferring that as inspiration was attached to the munus propheticum so the Apostles were aided by Divine inspiration whenever in the exercise of their calling they either spoke or wrote. Positive arguments are deduced from the New Testament to establish that a permanent prophetical charisma (see CHARISMATA) was enjoyed by the Apostles through a special indwelling of the Holy Ghost, beginning with Pentecost: Matth., x, 19, 20; Acts, xv, 28; I Cor., ii, 13; II Cor., xiii, 3; I Thess., ii, 13, are cited. The opponents of this theory allege against it that the Gospels of Mark and of Luke and Acts were not the work of Apostles (however, tradition connects the Second Gospel with St. Peter's preaching and St. Luke's with St. Paul's); that books current under an Apostle's name in the Early Church, such as the Epistle of Barnabas and the Apocalypse of St. Peter, were nevertheless excluded from canonical rank, while on the other hand Origen and St. Dionysius of Alexandria in the case of Apocalypse, and St. Jerome in the case of II and III John, although questioning the Apostolic authorship of these works, unhesitatingly received them as Sacred Scriptures. An objection of a speculative kind is derived from the very nature of inspiration ad scribendum, which seems to demand a specific impulse from the Holy Ghost in each case, and preclude the theory that it could be possessed as a permanent gift, or charisma. The weight of Catholic theological opinion is deservedly against mere Apostolicity as a sufficient criterion of inspiration. The adverse view has been taken by Franzelin (De Divinâ Traditione et Scripturâ, 1882), Schmid (De Inspirationis Bibliorum Vi et Ratione, 1885), Crets (De Divinâ Bibliorum Inspiratione, 1886), Leitner (Die prophetische Inspiration, 1895--a monograph), Pesch (De Inspiratione Sacræ, 1906). These authors (some of whom treat the matter more speculatively than historically) admit that Apostolicity is a positive and partial touchstone of inspiration, but emphatically deny that it was exclusive, in the sense that all non-Apostolic works were by that very fact barred from the sacred Canon of the New Testament They hold to doctrinal tradition as the true criterion.

Catholic champions of Apostolicity as a criterion are: Ubaldi (Introductio in Sacram Scripturam, II, 1876); Schanz (in Theologische Quartalschrift, 1885, pp. 666 sqq., and A Christian Apology, II, tr. 1891); Székely (Hermeneutica Biblica, 1902). Recently Professor Batiffol, while rejecting the claims of these latter advocates, has enunciated a theory regarding the principle that presided over the formation of the New Testament canon which challenges attention and perhaps marks a new stage in the controversy. According to Monsignor Batiffol, the Gospel (i.e. the words and commandments of Jesus Christ) bore with it its own sacredness and authority from the very beginning. This Gospel was announced to the world at large, by the Apostles and Apostolic disciples of Christ, and this message, whether spoken or written, whether taking the form of an evangelic narrative or epistle, was holy and supreme by the fact of containing the Word of Our Lord. Accordingly, for the primitive Church, evangelical character was the test of Scriptural sacredness. But to guarantee this character it was necessary that a book should be known as composed by the official witnesses and organs of the Evangel; hence the need to certify the Apostolic authorship, or at least sanction, of a work purporting to contain the Gospel of Christ. In Batiffol's view the Judaic notion of inspiration did not at first enter into the selection of the Christian Scriptures. In fact, for the earliest Christians the Gospel of Christ, in the wide sense above noted, was not to be classified with, because transcending, the Old Testament. It was not until about the middle of the second century that under the rubric of Scripture the New Testament writings were assimilated to the Old; the authority of the New Testament as the Word preceded and produced its authority as a New Scripture. (Revue Biblique, 1903, 226 sqq.) Monsignor Batiffol's hypothesis has this in common with the views of other recent students of the New Testament canon, that the idea of a new body of sacred writings became clearer in the Early Church as the faithful advanced in a knowledge of the Faith. But it should be remembered that the inspired character of the New Testament is a Catholic dogma, and must therefore in some way have been revealed to, and taught by, Apostles.--Assuming that Apostolic authorship is a positive criterion of inspiration, two inspired Epistles of St. Paul have been lost. This appears from I Cor., v, 9, sqq.; II Cor., ii, 4, 5.

3. The formation of the Tetramorph, or Fourfold Gospel

Irenæus, in his work "Against Heresies" (A.D. 182-88), testifies to the existence of a Tetramorph, or Quadriform Gospel, given by the Word and unified by one Spirit; to repudiate this Gospel or any part of it, as did the Alogi and Marcionites, was to sin against revelation and the Spirit of God. The saintly Doctor of Lyons explicitly states the names of the four Elements of this Gospel, and repeatedly cites all the Evangelists in a manner parallel to his citations from the Old Testament. From the testimony of St. Irenæus alone there can be no reasonable doubt that the Canon of the Gospel was inalterably fixed in the Catholic Church by the last quarter of the second century. Proofs might be multiplied that our canonical Gospels were then universally recognized in the Church, to the exclusion of any pretended Evangels. The magisterial statement of Irenæus may be corroborated by the very ancient catalogue known as the Muratorian Canon, and St. Hippolytus, representing Roman tradition; by Tertullian in Africa, by Clement in Alexandria; the works of the Gnostic Valentinus, and the Syrian Tatian's Diatessaron, a blending together of the Evangelists' writings, presuppose the authority enjoyed by the fourfold Gospel towards the middle of the second century. To this period or a little earlier belongs the pseduo-Clementine epistle in which we find, for the first time after II Peter, iii, 16, the word Scripture applied to a New Testament book. But it is needless in the present article to array the full force of these and other witnesses, since even rationalistic scholars like Harnack admit the canonicity of the quadriform Gospel between the years 140-175.

But against Harnack we are able to trace the Tetramorph as a sacred collection back to a more remote period. The apocryphal Gospel of St. Peter, dating from about 150, is based on our canonical Evangelists. So with the very ancient Gospel of the Hebrews and Egyptians (see APOCRYPHA). St. Justin Martyr (130-63) in his Apology refers to certain "memoirs of the Apostles, which are called gospels", and which "are read in Christian assemblies together with the writings of the Prophets". The identity of these "memoirs" with our Gospels is established by the certain traces of three, if not all, of them scattered through St. Justin's works; it was not yet the age of explicit quotations. Marcion, the heretic refuted by Justin in a lost polemic, as we know from Tertullian, instituted a criticism of Gospels bearing the names of the Apostles and disciples of the Apostles, and a little earlier (c. 120) Basilides, the Alexandrian leader of a Gnostic sect, wrote a commentary on "the Gospel" which is known by the allusions to it in the Fathers to have comprised the writings of the Four Evangelists.

In our backward search we have come to the sub-Apostolic age, and its important witnesses are divided into Asian, Alexandrian, and Roman:

St. Ignatius, Bishop of Antioch, and St. Polycarp, of Smyrna, had been disciples of Apostles; they wrote their epistles in the first decade of the second century (100-110). They employ Matthew, Luke, and John. In St. Ignatius we find the first instance of the consecrated term "it is written" applied to a Gospel (Ad Philad., viii, 2). Both these Fathers show not only a personal acquaintance with "the Gospel" and the thirteen Pauline Epistles, but they suppose that their readers are so familiar with them that it would be superfluous to name them. Papias, Bishop of Phrygian Hierapolis, according to Irenæus a disciple of St. John, wrote about A.D. 125. Describing the origin of St. Mark's Gospel, he speaks of Hebrew (Aramaic) Logia, or Sayings of Christ, composed by St. Matthew, which there is reason to believe formed the basis of the canonical Gospel of that name, though the greater part of Catholic writers identify them with the Gospel. As we have only a few fragments of Papias, preserved by Eusebius, it cannot be alleged that he is silent about other parts of the New Testament.

The so-called Epistle of Barnabas, of uncertain origin, but of highest antiquity, cites a passage from the First Gospel under the formula "it is written". The Didache, or Teaching of the Apostles, an uncanonical work dating from c. 110, implies that "the Gospel" was already a well-known and definite collection.

St. Clement, Bishop of Rome, and disciple of St. Paul, addressed his Letter to the Corinthian Church c. A.D. 97, and, although it cites no Evangelist explicitly, this epistle contains combinations of texts taken from the three synoptic Gospels, especially from St. Matthew. That Clement does not allude to the Fourth Gospel is quite natural, as it was not composed till about that time.

Thus the patristic testimonies have brought us step by step to a Divine inviolable fourfold Gospel existing in the closing years of the Apostolic Era. Just how the Tetramorph was welded into unity and given to the Church, is a matter of conjecture. But, as Zahn observes, there is good reason to believe that the tradition handed down by Papias, of the approval of St. Mark's Gospel by St. John the Evangelist, reveals that either the latter himself of a college of his disciples added the Fourth Gospel to the Synoptics, and made the group into the compact and unalterable "Gospel", the one in four, whose existence and authority left their clear impress upon all subsequent ecclesiastical literature, and find their conscious formulation in the language of Irenæus.

4. The Pauline Epistles

Parallel to the chain of evidence we have traced for the canonical standing of the Gospels extends one for the thirteen Epistles of St. Paul, forming the other half of the irreducible kernel of the complete New Testament canon. All the authorities cited for the Gospel Canon show acquaintance with, and recognize, the sacred quality of these letters. St. Irenæus, as acknowledged by the Harnackian critics, employs all the Pauline writings, except the short Philemon, as sacred and canonical. The Muratorian Canon, contemporary with Irenæus, gives the complete list of the thirteen, which, it should be remembered, does not include Hebrews. The heretical Basilides and his disciples quote from this Pauline group in general. The copious extracts from Marcion's works scattered through Irenæus and Tertullian show that he was acquainted with the thirteen as in ecclesiastical use, and selected his Apostolikon of six from them. The testimony of Polycarp and Ignatius is again capital in this case. Eight of St. Paul's writings are cited by Polycarp; St. Ignatius of Antioch ranked the Apostles above the Prophets, and must therefore have allowed the written compositions of the former at least an equal rank with those of the latter ("Ad Philadelphios", v). St. Clement of Rome refers to Corinthians as at the head "of the Evangel"; the Muratorian Canon gives the same honour to I Corinthians, so that we may rightfully draw the inference, with Dr. Zahn, that as early as Clement's day St. Paul's Epistles had been collected and formed into a group with a fixed order. Zahn has pointed out confirmatory signs of this in the manner in which Sts. Ignatius and Polycarp employ these Epistles. The tendency of the evidence is to establish the hypothesis that the important Church of Corinth was the first to form a complete collection of St. Paul's writings.

5. The remaining Books

In this formative period the Epistle to the Hebrews did not obtain a firm footing in the Canon of the Universal Church. At Rome it was not yet recognized as canonical, as shown by the Muratorian catalogue of Roman origin; Irenæus probably cites it, but makes no reference to a Pauline origin. Yet it was known at Rome as early as St. Clement, as the latter's epistle attests. The Alexandrian Church admitted it as the work of St. Paul, and canonical. The Montanists favoured it, and the aptness with which vi, 4-8, lent itself to the Montanist and Novatianist rigour was doubtless one reason why it was suspect in the West. Also during this period the excess over the minimal Canon composed of the Gospels and thirteen epistles varied. The seven "Catholic" Epistles (James, Jude, I and II Peter, and the three of John) had not yet been brought into a special group, and, with the possible exception of the three of St. John, remained isolated units, depending for their canonical strength on variable circumstances. But towards the end of the second century the canonical minimum was enlarged and, besides the Gospels and Pauline Epistles, unalterably embraced Acts, I Peter, I John (to which II and III John were probably attached), and Apocalypse. Thus Hebrews, James, Jude, and II Peter remained hovering outside the precincts of universal canonicity, and the controversy about them and the subsequently disputed Apocalypse form the larger part of the remaining history of the Canon of the New Testament However, at the beginning of the third century the New Testament was formed in the sense that the content of its main divisions, what may be called its essence, was sharply defined and universally received, while all the secondary books were recognized in some Churches. A singular exception to the universality of the above-described substance of the New Testament was the Canon of the primitive East Syrian Church, which did not contain any of the Catholic Epistles or Apocalypse.

6. The idea of a New Testament

The question of the principle that dominated the practical canonization of the New Testament Scriptures has already been discussed under (b). The faithful must have had from the beginning some realization that in the writings of the Apostles and Evangelists they had acquired a new body of Divine Scriptures, a New written Testament destined to stand side by side with the Old. That the Gospel and Epistles were the written Word of God, was fully realized as soon as the fixed collections were formed; but to seize the relation of this new treasure to the old was possible only when the faithful acquired a better knowledge of the faith. In this connection Zahn observes with much truth that the rise of Montanism, with its false prophets, who claimed for their written productions--the self-styled Testament of the Paraclete--the authority of revelation, around the Christian Church to a fuller sense that the age of revelation had expired with the last of the Apostles, and that the circle of sacred Scripture is not extensible beyond the legacy of the Apostolic Era. Montanism began in 156; a generation later, in the works of Irenæus, we discover the firmly-rooted idea of two Testaments, with the same Spirit operating in both. For Tertullian (c. 200) the body of the New Scripture is an instrumentum on at least an equal footing and in the same specific class as the instrumentum formed by the Law and the Prophets. Clement of Alexandria was the first to apply the word "Testament" to the sacred library of the New Dispensation. A kindred external influence is to be added to Montanism: the need of setting up a barrier, between the genuine inspired literature and the flood of pseudo-Apostolic apocrypha, gave an additional impulse to the idea of a New Testament canon, and later contributed not a little to the demarcation of its fixed limits.


In this stage of the historical development of the Canon of the New Testament we encounter for the first time a consciousness reflected in certain ecclesiastical writers, of the differences between the sacred collections in divers sections of Christendom. This variation is witnessed to, and the discussion stimulated by, two of the most learned men of Christian antiquity, Origen, and Eusebius of Cæsarea, the ecclesiastical historian. A glance at the Canon as exhibited in the authorities of the African, or Carthaginian, Church, will complete our brief survey of this period of diversity and discussion:-

1. Origen and his school

Origen's travels gave him exception opportunities to know the traditions of widely separated portions of the Church and made him very conversant with the discrepant attitudes toward certain parts of the New Testament He divided books with Biblical claims into three classes:

those universally received;

those whose Apostolicity was questions;

apocryphal works.

In the first class, the Homologoumena, stood the Gospels, the thirteen Pauline Epistles, Acts, Apocalypse, I Peter, and I John. The contested writings were Hebrews, II Peter, II and III John, James, Jude, Barnabas, the Shepherd of Hermas, the Didache, and probably the Gospel of the Hebrews. Personally, Origen accepted all of these as Divinely inspired, though viewing contrary opinions with toleration. Origen's authority seems to have given to Hebrews and the disputed Catholic Epistles a firm place in the Alexandrian Canon, their tenure there having been previously insecure, judging from the exegetical work of Clement, and the list in the Codex Claromontanus, which is assigned by competent scholars to an early Alexandrian origin.

2. Eusebius

Eusebius, Bishop of Cæsarea in Palestine, was one of Origen's most eminent disciples, a man of wide erudition. In imitation of his master he divided religious literature into three classes:

Homologoumena, or compositions universally received as sacred, the Four Gospels, thirteen Epistles of St. Paul, Hebrews, Acts, I Peter, I John, and Apocalypse. There is some inconsistency in his classification; for instance, though ranking Hebrews with the books of universal reception, he elsewhere admits it is disputed.

The second category is composed of the Antilegomena, or contested writings; these in turn are of the superior and inferior sort. The better ones are the Epistles of St. James and St. Jude, II Peter, II and III John; these, like Origen, Eusebius wished to be admitted to the Canon, but was forced to record their uncertain status; the Antilegomena of the inferior sort were Barnabas, the Didache, Gospel of the Hebrews, the Acts of Paul, the Shepherd, the Apocalypse of Peter.

All the rest are spurious (notha).

Eusebius diverged from his Alexandrian master in personally rejecting Apocalypse as an un-Biblical, though compelled to acknowledge its almost universal acceptance. Whence came this unfavourable view of the closing volume of the Christian Testament?--Zahn attributes it to the influence of Lucian of Samosata, one of the founders of the Antioch school of exegesis, and with whose disciples Eusebius had been associated. Lucian himself had acquired his education at Edessa, the metropolis of Eastern Syria, which had, as already remarked, a singularly curtailed Canon. Luician is known to have edited the Scriptures at Antioch, and is supposed to have introduced there the shorter New Testament which later St. John Chrysostom and his followers employed--one in which Apocalypse, II Peter, II and III John, and Jude had no place. It is known that Theodore of Mopsuestia rejected all the Catholic Epistles. In St. John Chrysostom's ample expositions of the Scriptures there is not a single clear trace of the Apocalypse, which he seems to implicitly exclude the four smaller Epistles--II Peter, II and III John, and Jude--from the number of the canonical books. Lucian, then, according to Zahn, would have compromised between the Syriac Canon and the Canon of Origen by admitting the three longer Catholic Epistles and keeping out Apocalypse. But after allowing fully for the prestige of the founder of the Antioch school, it is difficult to grant that his personal authority could have sufficed to strike such an important work as Apocalypse from the Canon of a notable Church, where it had previously been received. It is more probable that a reaction against the abuse of the Johannine Apocalypse by the Montanists and Chiliasts--Asia Minor being the nursery of both these errors--led to the elimination of a book whose authority had perhaps been previously suspected. Indeed it is quite reasonable to suppose that its early exclusion from the East Syrian Church was an outer wave of the extreme reactionist movement of the Aloges--also of Asia Minor--who branded Apocalypse and all the Johannine writings as the work of the heretic Cerinthus. Whatever may have been all the influences ruling the personal Canon of Eusebius, he chose Lucian's text for the fifty copies of the Bible which he furnished to the Church of Constantinople at the order of his imperial patron Constantine; and he incorporated all the Catholic Epistles, but excluded Apocalypse. The latter remained for more than a century banished from the sacred collections as current in Antioch and Constantinople. However, this book kept a minority of Asiatic suffrages, and, as both Lucian and Eusebius had been tainted with Arianism, the approbation of Apocalypse, opposed by them, finally came to be looked upon as a sign of orthodoxy. Eusebius was the first to call attention to important variations in the text of the Gospels, viz., the presence in some copies and the absence in others of the final paragraph of Mark, the passage of the Adulterous Woman, and the Bloody Sweat.

3. The African Church

St. Cyprian, whose Scriptural Canon certainly reflects the contents of the first Latin Bible, received all the books of the New Testament except Hebrews, II Peter, James, and Jude; however, there was already a strong inclination in his environment to admit II Peter as authentic. Jude had been recognized by Tertullian, but, strangely, it had lost its position in the African Church, probably owing to its citation of the apocryphal Henoch. Cyprian's testimony to the non-canonicity of Hebrews and James is confirmed by Commodian, another African writer of the period. A very important witness is the document known as Mommsen's Canon, a manuscript of the tenth century, but whose original has been ascertained to date from West Africa about the year 360. It is a formal catalogue of the sacred books, unmutilated in the New Testament portion, and proves that at its time the books universally acknowledged in the influential Church of Carthage were almost identical with those received by Cyprian a century before. Hebrews, James, and Jude are entirely wanting. The three Epistles of St. John and II Peter appear, but after each stands the note una sola, added by an almost contemporary hand, and evidently in protest against the reception of these Antilegomena, which, presumably, had found a place in the official list recently, but whose right to be there was seriously questioned.


1. St. Athanasius

While the influence of Athanasius on the Canon of the Old Testament was negative and exclusive (see supra), in that of the New Testament it was trenchantly constructive. In his "Epistola Festalis" (A.D. 367) the illustrious Bishop of Alexandria ranks all of Origen's New Testament Antilegomena, which are identical with the deuteros, boldly inside the Canon, without noticing any of the scruples about them. Thenceforward they were formally and firmly fixed in the Alexandrian Canon. And it is significant of the general trend of ecclesiastical authority that not only were works which formerly enjoyed high standing at broad-minded Alexandria--the Apocalypse of Peter and the Acts of Paul--involved by Athanasius with the apocrypha, but even some that Origen had regarded as inspired--Barnabas, the Shepherd of Hermas, the Didache--were ruthlessly shut out under the same damnatory title.

2. The Roman Church, the Synod under Damasus, and St. Jerome The Muratorian Canon or Fragment, composed in the Roman Church in the last quarter of the second century, is silent about Hebrews, James, II Peter; I Peter, indeed, is not mentioned, but must have been omitted by an oversight, since it was universally received at the time. There is evidence that this restricted Canon obtained not only in the African Church, with slight modifications, as we have seen, but also at Rome and in the West generally until the close of the fourth century. The same ancient authority witnesses to the very favourable and perhaps canonical standing enjoyed at Rome by the Apocalypse of Peter and the Shepherd of Hermas. In the middle decades of the fourth century the increased intercourse and exchange of views between the Orient and the Occident led to a better mutual acquaintance regarding Biblical canons and the correction of the catalogue of the Latin Church. It is a singular fact that while the East, mainly through St. Jerome's pen, exerted a disturbing and negative influence on Western opinion regarding the Old Testament, the same influence, through probably the same chief intermediary, made for the completeness and integrity of the New Testament canon. The West began to realize that the ancient Apostolic Churches of Jerusalem and Antioch, indeed the whole Orient, for more than two centuries had acknowledged Hebrews and James as inspired writings of Apostles, while the venerable Alexandrian Church, supported by the prestige of Athanasius, and the powerful Patriarchate of Constantinople, with the scholarship of Eusebius behind its judgment, had canonized all the disputed Epistles. St. Jerome, a rising light in the Church, though but a simple priest, was summoned by Pope Damasus from the East, where he was pursuing sacred lore, to assist at an eclectic, but not ecumenical, synod at Rome in the year 382. Neither the general council at Constantinople of the preceding year nor that of Nice (365) had considered the question of the Canon. This Roman synod must have devoted itself specially to the matter. The result of its deliberations, presided over, no doubt, by the energetic Damasus himself, has been preserved in the document called "Decretum Gelasii de recipiendis et non recipiendis libris", a compilation partly of the sixth century, but containing much material dating from the two preceding ones. The Damasan catalogue presents the complete and perfect Canon which has been that of the Church Universal ever since. The New Testament portion bears the marks of Jerome's views. St. Jerome, always prepossessed in favour of Oriental positions in matters Biblical, exerted then a happy influence in regard to the New Testament; if he attempted to place any Eastern restriction upon the Canon of the Old Testament his effort failed of any effect. The title of the decree--"Nunc vero de scripturis divinis agendum est quid universalis Catholica recipiat ecclesia, et quid vitare debeat"--proves that the council drew up a list of apocryphal as well as authentic Scriptures. The Shepherd and the false Apocalypse of Peter now received their final blow. "Rome had spoken, and the nations of the West had heard" (Zahn). The works of the Latin Fathers of the period--Jerome, Hilary of Poitiers, Lucifer of Sardina, Philaster of Brescia--manifest the changed attitude toward Hebrews, James, Jude, II Peter, and III John.

3. Fixation in the African and Gallican Churches

It was some little time before the African Church perfectly adjusted its New Testament to the Damasan Canon. Optatus of Mileve (370-85) does not used Hebrews. St. Augustine, while himself receiving the integral Canon, acknowledged that many contested this Epistle. But in the Synod of Hippo (393) the great Doctor's view prevailed, and the correct Canon was adopted. However, it is evident that it found many opponents in Africa, since three councils there at brief intervals--Hippo, Carthage, in 393; Third of Carthage in 397; Carthage in 419--found it necessary to formulate catalogues. The introduction of Hebrews was an especial crux, and a reflection of this is found in the first Carthage list, where the much vexed Epistle, though styled of St. Paul, is still numbered separately from the time-consecrated group of thirteen. The catalogues of Hippo and Carthage are identical with the Catholic Canon of the present. In Gaul some doubts lingered for a time, as we find Pope Innocent I, in 405, sending a list of the Sacred Books to one of its bishops, Exsuperius of Toulouse. So at the close of the first decade of the fifth century the entire Western Church was in possession of the full Canon of the New Testament In the East, where, with the exception of the Edessene Syrian Church, approximate completeness had long obtained without the aid of formal enactments, opinions were still somewhat divided on the Apocalypse. But for the Catholic Church as a whole the content of the New Testament was definitely fixed, and the discussion closed.

The final process of this Canon's development had been twofold: positive, in the permanent consecration of several writings which had long hovered on the line between canonical and apocryphal; and negative, by the definite elimination of certain privileged apocrypha that had enjoyed here and there a canonical or quasi-canonical standing. In the reception of the disputed books a growing conviction of Apostolic authorship had much to do, but the ultimate criterion had been their recognition as inspired by a great and ancient division of the Catholic Church. Thus, like Origen, St. Jerome adduces the testimony of the ancients and ecclesiastical usage in pleading the cause of the Epistle to the Hebrews (De Viris Illustribus, lix). There is no sign that the Western Church ever positively repudiated any of the New Testament deuteros; not admitted from the beginning, these had slowly advanced towards a complete acceptance there. On the other hand, the apparently formal exclusion of Apocalypse from the sacred catalogue of certain Greek Churches was a transient phase, and supposes its primitive reception. Greek Christianity everywhere, from about the beginning of the sixth century, practically had a complete and pure New Testament canon. (See EPISTLE TO THE HEBREWS; EPISTLES OF ST. PETER; EPISTLE OF JAMES; EPISTLE OF JUDE; EPISTLES OF JOHN; APOCALYPSE.)


1. To the Protestant Reformation

The New Testament in its canonical aspect has little history between the first years of the fifth and the early part of the sixteenth century. As was natural in ages when ecclesiastical authority had not reached its modern centralization, there were sporadic divergences from the common teaching and tradition. There was no diffused contestation of any book, but here and there attempts by individuals to add something to the received collection. In several ancient Latin manuscripts the spurious Epistle to the Laodiceans is found among the canonical letters, and, in a few instances, the apocryphal III Corinthians. The last trace of any Western contradiction within the Church to the Canon of the New Testament reveals a curious transplantation of Oriental doubts concerning the Apocalypse. An act of the Synod of Toledo, held in 633, states that many contest the authority of that book, and orders it to be read in the churches under pain of excommunication. The opposition in all probability came from the Visigoths, who had recently been converted from Arianism. The Gothic Bible had been made under Oriental auspices at a time when there was still much hostility to Apocalypse in the East.

2. The New Testament and the Council of Trent (1546)

This ecumenical synod had to defend the integrity of the New Testament as well as the Old against the attacks of the pseudo-Reformers, Luther, basing his action on dogmatic reasons and the judgment of antiquity, had discarded Hebrews, James, Jude, and Apocalypse as altogether uncanonical. Zwingli could not see in Apocalypse a Biblical book. (OEcolampadius placed James, Jude, II Peter, II and III John in an inferior rank. Even a few Catholic scholars of the Renaissance type, notably Erasmus and Cajetan, had thrown some doubts on the canonicity of the above-mentioned Antilegomena. As to whole books, the Protestant doubts were the only ones the Fathers of Trent took cognizance of; there was not the slightest hesitation regarding the authority of any entire document. But the deuterocanonical parts gave the council some concern, viz., the last twelve verses of Mark, the passage about the Bloody Sweat in Luke, and the Pericope Adulteræ in John. Cardinal Cajetan had approvingly quoted an unfavourable comment of St. Jerome regarding Mark, xvi, 9-20; Erasmus had rejected the section on the Adulterous Woman as unauthentic. Still, even concerning these no doubt of authenticity was expressed at Trent; the only question was as to the manner of their reception. In the end these portions were received, like the deuterocanonical books, without the slightest distinction. And the clause "cum omnibus suis partibus" regards especially these portions.--For an account of the action of Trent on the Canon, the reader is referred back to the respective section of the article: II. The Canon of the Old Testament in the Catholic Church.

The Tridentine decree defining the Canon affirms the authenticity of the books to which proper names are attached, without however including this in the definition. The order of books follows that of the Bull of Eugenius IV (Council of Florence), except that Acts was moved from a place before Apocalypse to its present position, and Hebrews put at the end of St. Paul's Epistles. The Tridentine order has been retained in the official Vulgate and vernacular Catholic Bibles. The same is to be said of the titles, which as a rule are traditional ones, taken from the Canons of Florence and Carthage. (For the bearing of the Vatican Council on the New Testament, see Part II above.)

3. The New Testament canon outside the Church

The Orthodox Russian and other branches of the Eastern Orthodox Church have a New Testament identical with the Catholic. In Syria the Nestorians possess a Canon almost identical with the final one of the ancient East Syrians; they exclude the four smaller Catholic Epistles and Apocalypse. The Monophysites receive all the book. The Armenians have one apocryphal letter to the Corinthians and two from the same. The Coptic-Arabic Church include with the canonical Scriptures the Apostolic Constitutions and the Clementine Epistles. The Ethiopic New Testament also contains the so-called "Apostolic Constitutions".

As for Protestantism, the Anglicans and Calvinists always kept the entire New Testament But for over a century the followers of Luther excluded Hebrews, James, Jude, and Apocalypse, and even went further than their master by rejecting the three remaining deuterocanonicals, II Peter, II and III John. The trend of the seventeenth century Lutheran theologians was to class all these writings as of doubtful, or at least inferior, authority. But gradually the German Protestants familiarized themselves with the idea that the difference between the contested books of the New Testament and the rest was one of degree of certainty as to origin rather than of instrinsic character. The full recognition of these books by the Calvinists and Anglicans made it much more difficult for the Lutherans to exclude the New Testament deuteros than those of the Old. One of their writers of the seventeenth century allowed only a theoretic difference between the two classes, and in 1700 Bossuet could say that all Catholics and Protestants agreed on the New Testament canon. The only trace of opposition now remaining in German Protestant Bibles is in the order, Hebrews, coming with James, Jude, and Apocalypse at the end; the first not being included with the Pauline writings, while James and Jude are not ranked with the Catholic Epistles.

4. The criterion of inspiration (less correctly known as the criterion of canonicity)

Even those Catholic theologians who defend Apostolicity as a test for the inspiration of the New Testament (see above) admit that it is not exclusive of another criterion, viz., Catholic tradition as manifested in the universal reception of compositions as Divinely inspired, or the ordinary teaching of the Church, or the infallible pronouncements of ecumenical councils. This external guarantee is the sufficient, universal, and ordinary proof of inspiration. The unique quality of the Sacred Books is a revealed dogma. Moreover, by its very nature inspiration eludes human observation and is not self-evident, being essentially superphysical and supernatural. Its sole absolute criterion, therefore, is the Holy inspiring Spirit, witnessing decisively to Itself, not in the subjective experience of individual souls, as Calvin maintained, neither in the doctrinal and spiritual tenor of Holy Writ itself, according to Luther, but through the constituted organ and custodian of Its revelations, the Church. All other evidences fall short of the certainty and finality necessary to compel the absolute assent of faith. (See Franzelin, "De Divinâ Traditione et Scripturâ"; Wiseman, "Lectures on Christian Doctrine", Lecture ii; also INSPIRATION.)

Publication information Written by George J. Reid. Transcribed by Ernie Stefanik. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume III. Published 1908. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Nihil Obstat, November 1, 1908. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York

Canonical Lists

Advanced Information

Modern list

The Origenic canon.
The Eusebian canon.
The canon of Mommsen.
The Apostolic Constitutions canon list.
The Laodicean synod canon.
The Athanasian canon.
The Epiphanian canon.
The Carthaginian synod canon.
The Claromontanus canon catalogue.
The stichometry of Nicephorus.


Modern list.

Canonical Jewish texts (Old Testament).
Paracanonical Jewish texts (apocrypha).
Noncanonical Jewish texts (pseudepigrapha and other).
Canonical Christian texts (New Testament).
Paracanonical Christian texts (apostolic fathers).
Noncanonical Christian texts (church fathers and other).

Canonical Jewish texts (Old Testament).
Book of Genesis.
Book of Exodus. 40.
Book of Leviticus. 27.
Book of Numbers. 36.
Book of Deuteronomy. 34.
Book of Joshua. 24.
Book of Judges. 21.
Book of Ruth. 4.
1 Samuel. 31.
2 Samuel. 24.
1 Kings. 22.
2 Kings. 25.
1 Chronicles. 29.
2 Chronicles. 36.
Book of Ezra. 10.
Book of Nehemiah. 13.
Book of Esther. 10.
Job. 42.
Psalms. 150.
Proverbs. 31.
Ecclesiastes. 12.
Song of Solomon. 8.
Isaiah. 66.
Jeremiah. 52.
Lamentations. 5.
Ezekiel. 48.
Book of Daniel. 12.
Book of Hosea. 1-4, 5-7, 8-11, 12-14.
Book of Joel. 1-4.
Book of Amos. 9.
Obadiah. 1.
Jonah. 4.
Micah. 7.
Nahum. 3.
Habakkuk. 3.
Zephaniah. 3.
Haggai. 3.
Zechariah. 14.
Malachi. 1-4.
Paracanonical Jewish texts (apocrypha).
1 Maccabees.
2 Maccabees. 15.
3 Maccabees. 7.
4 Maccabees. 18.
Wisdom of Solomon. 19.
Wisdom of Sirach. 51.
Tobit. 14.
Judith. 16.
1 Esdras. 9.
1 Baruch. 5.
Epistle of Jeremiah. 1.
Prayer of Manasseh. 1.
Psalms of Solomon. 18.
Odes. 14.
Noncanonical Jewish texts (pseudepigrapha, histories, and other).
Apocalypse of Abraham.
Testament of Abraham. Recensions.
Life of Adam and Eve. Recensions.
Apocalypse of Adam. Recensions.
Testament of Adam. Recensions.
Aristeas. Fragment.
Epistle of Aristeas. 1.
Aristobulus. Fragments.
Artapanus. Fragments.
2 Baruch. 85.
3 Baruch. 17.
4 Baruch. 9.
Cleodemus Malchus. Fragment.
Demetrius the chronographer. Fragments.
Eldad and Modad. Fragment.
Apocalypse of Elijah. Fragments.
1 Enoch. 1-16, 17-32.
2 Enoch. 68.
2 Esdras (4 Ezra). 16.
Eupolemus. Fragments.
Apocryphon of Ezekiel. Fragments.
Ezekiel the poet. Fragments.
Pseudo-Hecateus. Fragments.
Hellenistic synagogal prayers. Fragments.
Testament of Isaac. Recensions.
Ascension of Isaiah. 11.
Ladder of Jacob. ?
Prayer of Jacob. ?
Testament of Jacob. ?
Jannes and Jambres. Fragments.
Testament of Job. 12.
Joseph and Aseneth. 29.
History of Joseph. 29.
Prayer of Joseph. Fragments.
Jubilees. 48.
Menander. Fragments.
Assumption of Moses. Fragments.
Testament of Moses. 12.
Apocalypse of Moses. Recensions.
Book of Noah. Fragments.
Pseudo-Orpheus. Fragments.
Philo the poet. Fragments.
Pseudo-Philo. 65.
Pseudo-Phocylides. 250 verses.
Lives of the prophets. 23.
History of the Rechabites. 23.
Apocalypse of Sedrach. 16.
Treatise of Shem. ?
Sibylline oracles. 14 books.
Odes of Solomon. 42.
Testament of Solomon. 26.
Theodotus. Fragments.
Testaments of the patriarchs. 12 books.
Apocalypse of Zephaniah. Fragments.
Ahiqar. 7.
Lost sources.
Dead Sea scrolls.
Philo (pseudo-Philo).
History of the Bible. Septuagint.
Canonical Christian texts (New Testament).
Gospel According to Matthew.
1-4, 5-7, 8-11, 12-14, 15-18, 19-21, 22-25, 26-28.
Mark. 1-4, 5-8, 9-12, 13-16.
Gospel According to Luke. 1-3, 4-6, 7-9, 10-12, 13-15, 16-18, 19-21, 22-24.
John. 1-4, 5-8, 9-12, 13-16, 17-21.
Acts. 1-4, 5-7, 8-11, 12-14, 15-18, 19-21, 22-25, 26-28.
Romans. 1-4, 5-8, 9-12, 13-16.
1 Corinthians. 1-4, 5-8, 9-12, 13-16.
2 Corinthians. 1-4, 5-8, 9-13.
Galatians. 1-6.
Ephesians. 1-6.
Philippians. 1-4.
Colossians. 1-4.
1 Thessalonians. 1-5.
2 Thessalonians. 1-3.
1 Timothy. 1-6.
2 Timothy. 1-4.
Titus. 1-3.
Philemon. 1.
Hebrews. 1-4, 5-8, 9-13.
James. 1-5.
1 Peter. 1-5.
2 Peter. 1-3.
1 John. 1-5.
2 John. 1.
3 John. 1.
Jude. 1.
Revelation. 1-4, 5-8, 9-12, 13-16, 17-22.
Paracanonical Christian texts (apostolic fathers).
Text. Chapters.
1 Clement. 1-16, 17-32, 33-48, 49-65.
2 Clement. 1-10, 11-20.
Barnabas. 1-4, 5-8, 9-12, 13-16, 17-21.
Didache. 1-16.
Ignatius to the Ephesians. 1-21.
Ignatius to the Magnesians. 1-15.
Ignatius to the Trallians. 1-13.
Ignatius to the Romans. 1-10.
Ignatius to the Philadelphians. 1-11.
Ignatius to the Smyrnaeans. 1-13.
Ignatius to Polycarp. 1-8.
Polycarp to the Philippians. 1-14.
Martyrdom of Polycarp. 1-22.
Papias. Fragments.
Traditions of the elders. Fragments.
Quadratus. Fragment.
Shepherd of Hermas. 114.
Diognetus. 1-12.
Noncanonical Christian texts (church fathers and other).

Refer to my page on our many sources for primitive Christianity.

Also available: Latin prologues, the Muratorian canon, the Marcionite prologues, the Nazareth inscription, the priestly courses inscription, the Clementine literature, codex Sinaiticus, codex Alexandrinus, codex Bezae, canonical lists, ancient Christian creeds.

Also, Extracts from Theodotus in English translation, provided by Andrew Criddle. The usual online texts that go by that title are better labelled Selections from the Prophetic Scriptures.


The Origenic canon.

Eusebius, History of the Church 6.25.3-14:

Ταυτα μεν ουν εν τω προειρημενω τιθησι συγγραμματι, εν δε τω πρωτω των εις το κατα Ματθαιον, τον εκκλησιαστικον φυλαττων κανονα, μονα τεσσαρα ειδεναι ευαγγελια μαρτυρεται, ωδε πως γραφων·

So these things he places in the aforementioned writing, but in the first of the [interpretations] on Matthew, protecting the ecclesiastical canon, he testifies that he knows only four gospels, writing something like this:

Four gospels.

Ως εν παραδοσει μαθων περι των τεσσαρων ευαγγελιων, α και μονα αναντιρρητα εστιν εν τη υπο τον ουρανον εκκλησια του θεου, οτι πρωτον μεν γεγραπται το κατα τον ποτε τελωνην, υστερον δε αποστολον Ιησου Χριστου Ματθαιον, εκδεδωκοτα αυτο τοις απο Ιουδαισμου πιστευσασιν, γραμμασιν Εβραικοις συντεταγμενον.

As learned in tradition concerning the four gospels, which even alone are not spoken against in the church of God under heaven, that the first written that according to the one who was once a publican, but later an apostle of Jesus Christ, Matthew, who published it for those from Judaism who had believed, ordered together in Hebrew letters.

Δευτερον δε το κατα Μαρκον, ως Πετρος υφηγησατο αυτω ποιησαντα ον και υιον εν τη καθολικη επιστολη δια τουτων ωμολογησεν φασκων· Ασπαζεται υμας Βαβυλωνι συνελεκτη και Μαρκος ο υιος μου.

And second that according to Mark, who made it as Peter led him, whom he confessed also as son in the catholic epistle, through these words: She who is in Babylon, elect with you, greets you, as well as Mark my son.

Και τριτον το κατα Λουκαν, το υπο Παυλου επαινουμενον ευαγγελιον τοις απο των εθνων πεποιηκοτα· επι πασιν το κατα Ιωαννην.

And third that according to Luke, the gospel praised by Paul, made for those from among the gentiles. After all of them, that according to John.

Pauline epistles.

Και εν τω πεμπτω δε των εις το κατα Ιωαννην εξηγητικων ο αυτος ταυτα περι των επιστολων των αποστολων φησιν· Ο δε ικανωθεις διακονος γενεσθαι της καινης διαθηκης, ου γραμματος αλλα πνευματος, Παυλος, ο πεπληρωκως το ευαγγελιον απο Ιερουσαλημ και κυκλω μεχρι του Ιλλυρικου, ουδε πασαις εγραψεν αις εδιδαξεν εκκλησιαις, αλλα και αις εγραψεν ολιγους στιχους επιστειλεν.

And, in the fifth of his expositions on the one according to John, the same one says these things concerning the epistles of the apostles: But he who was made ready as a minister of the new covenant, not of the letter but rather of the spirit, Paul, who fulfilled the gospel from Jerusalem and in a circle until Illyricum, did not write to all the churches that he taught, but even sent few lines to those to which he did write.

Epistle 1 of Peter 1-5.
Epistle 2 of Peter 1-3.

Πετρος δε, εφ ω οικοδομειται η Χριστου εκκλησια, ης πυλαι Αιδου ου κατισχυσουσιν, μιαν επιστολην ομολογουμενην καταλελοιπεν, εστω δε και δευτεραν, αμφιβαλλεται γαρ.

And Peter, upon whom the church of Christ is built, against which the gates of Hades shall not prevail, has left behind one confessed epistle, and it may be also a second, for it is doubted.

Τι δει περι του αναπεσοντος επι το στηθος λεγειν του Ιησου, Ιωαννου, ος ευαγγελιον εν καταλελοιπεν;

Why must one speak concerning the one who reclined upon the breast of Jesus, John, who has left behind one gospel?

Apocalypse 1-4, 5-8, 9-12, 13-16, 17-22.
Epistle 1 of John 1-5.
Epistle 2 of John 1.
Epistle 3 of John 1.

Ομολογων δυνασθαι τοσαυτα ποιησειν α ουδ ο κοσμος χωρησαι εδυνατο; εγραφεν δε και την αποκαλυψιν, κελευσθεις σιωπησαι και μη γραψαι τας των επτα βροντων φωνας. καταλελοιπεν και επιστολην πανυ ολιγων στιχων, εστω δε και δευτεραν και τριτην, επει ου παντες φασιν γνησιους ειναι ταυτας· πλην ουκ εισιν στιχων αμφοτεραι εκατον.

He confesses that he could have made so many [gospels] that the world could not make room for them. And he also wrote the apocalypse, having been commanded to be silent and not to write [what] the voices of the seven thunders [said]. He has also left behind an epistle of very few lines, and it may be also a second and a third, since not all say that these are genuine; but both of these [combined] are not even a hundred lines.

Epistle to the Hebrews 1-4, 5-8, 9-13.

Ετι προς τουτοις περι της προς Εβραιους επιστολης εν ταις εις αυτην ομιλιαις ταυτα διαλαμβανει· Οτι ο χαρακτηρ της λεξεως της προς Εβραιους επιγεγραμμενης επιστολης ουκ εχει το εν λογω ιδιωτικον του αποστολου, ομολογησαντος εαυτον ιδιωτην ειναι τω λογω, τουτ εστιν τη φρασει, αλλ εστιν η επιστολη συνθεσει της λεξεως Ελληνικωτερα, πας ο επισταμενος κρινειν φρασεων διαφορας ομολογησαι αν.

In addition he makes the following statements in regard to the epistle to the Hebrews in his homilies upon it: That the character of the epistle entitled to the Hebrews is not rude like the language of the apostle, who acknowledged himself rude in speech, that is, in expression, but rather its diction is purer Greek, everyone who has the power to discern differences of phraseology will acknowledge.

Παλιν τε αυ οτι τα νοηματα της επιστολης θαυμασια εστιν και ου δευτερα των αποστολικων ομολογουμενων γραμματων, και τουτο αν συμφησαι ειναι αληθες πας ο προσεχων τη αναγνωσει τη αποστολικη.

Again, that the thoughts of the epistle are marvellous, not even inferior to the confessed apostolic writings, everyone who carefully examines the apostolic text will admit.

Τουτοις μεθ ετερα επιφερει λεγων· Εγω δε αοφαινομενος ειποιμ αν οτι τα μεν νοηματα του αποστολου εστιν, η δε φρασις και η συνθεσις απομνημονευσαντος τινος τα αποστολικα και ωσπερ σχολιογραφησαντος τινος τα ειρημενα υπο του διδασκαλου. ει τις ουν εκκλησια εχει ταυτην την επιστολην ως Παυλου, αυτη ευδοκιμειτω και επι τουτω· ου γαρ εικη οι αρχαιοι ανδρες ως Παυλου αυτην παραδεδωκασιν.

After other things he adds these, saying: If I gave my opinion, I should say that the thoughts are those of the apostle, but the diction and phraseology are those of someone who remembered the apostolic 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. For not without reason have the ancients handed it down as of Paul.

Acts 1-4, 5-7, 8-11, 12-14, 15-18, 19-21, 22-25, 26-28.

Τις δε ο γραψας την επιστολην, το μεν αληθες θεος οιδεν, η δε εις ημας φθασασα ιστορια υπο τινων μεν λεγοντων οτι Κλημης, ο γενομενος επισκοπος Ρωμαιων, εγραψεν την επιστολην, υπο τινων δε οτι Λουκας, ο γραψας το ευαγγελιον και τας πραξεις.

But who wrote the epistle, in truth, God knows. The statement of some who have gone before us is that Clement, who became bishop of the Romans, wrote the epistle, and of others that Luke, the author of the gospel and the Acts, wrote it.


The Eusebian canon.

Eusebius, History of the Church 3.25.1-7:

Ευλογον δ ενταυθα γενομενους ανακεφαλαιωσασθαι τας δηλωθεισας της καινης διαθηκης γραφας.

At this point it seems reasonable to summarize the writings of the New Testament which have been cited.

Four gospels.
Acts 1-4, 5-7, 8-11, 12-14, 15-18, 19-21, 22-25, 26-28.
Pauline epistles.
Epistle 1 of John 1-5.
Epistle 1 of Peter 1-5.
Apocalypse 1-4, 5-8, 9-12, 13-16, 17-22.

Και δη τακτεον εν πρωτοις την αγιαν των ευαγγελιων τετρακτυν, οις επεται η των πραξεων των αποστολων γραφη. μετα δε ταυτην τας Παυλου καταλεκτεον επιστολας, αις εξης την φερομενην Ιωαννου προτεραν, και ομοιως την Πετρου κυρωτεον επιστολην. επι τουτοις τακτεον, ειγε φανειη, την αποκαλυψιν Ιωαννου, περι ης τα δοξαντα κατα καιρον εκθησομεθα. και ταυτα μεν εν ομολογουμενοις.

And indeed in the first places should the holy tetrad of the gospels be ordered, after which follows the writing of the Acts of the Apostles. And after this should be catalogued the epistles of Paul, to which follows the extant epistle of John, the former one, and likewise should be effected the epistle of Peter. After these should be ordered, if indeed it appears right, the apocalypse of John, about which the arguments shall be set out in time. And these are among the confessed [books].

Epistle of James 1-5.
Epistle of Jude 1.
Epistle 2 of Peter 1-3.
Epistle 2 of John 1.
Epistle 3 of John 1.

Των δ αντιλεγομενων, γνωριμων δ ουν ομως τοις πολλοις, η λεγομενη Ιακωβου φερεται, και η Ιουδα, η τε Πετρου δευτερα επιστολη, και η ονομαζομενη δευτερα και τριτη Ιωαννου, ειτε του ευαγγελιστου τυγχανουσαι, ειτε και ετερου ομωνυμου εκεινω.

Of the disputed [books], and those nevertheless known to the many, the epistle called of James is extant, and that of Jude, and the second of Peter, and that named the second and third of John, whether these happen to be of the evangelist or even of another with the same name as his.

Acts of Paul.
Shepherd of Hermas.
Apocalypse of Peter.
Epistle of Barnabas 1-4, 5-8, 9-12, 13-16, 17-21.
Teachings of the Apostles 1-16.
Apocalypse 1-4, 5-8, 9-12, 13-16, 17-22.
Gospel according to the Hebrews.

Εν τοις νοθοις κατατεταχθω και των Παυλου πραξεων η γραφη, ο τε λεγομενος ποιμην, και η αποκαλυψις Πετρου, και προς τουτοις η φερομενη Βαρναβα επιστολη, και των αποστολων αι λεγομεναι διδαχαι· ετι τε, ως εφην, η Ιωαννου αποκαλυψις, ει φανειη, ην τινες ως εφην αθετουσιν, ετεροι δε εγκρινουσι τοις ομολογουμενοις. ηδη δ εν τουτοις τινες και το καθ Εβραιους ευαγγελιον κατελεξαν, ω μαλιστα Εβραιων οι τον Χριστον παραδεξαμενοι χαιρουσι. ταυτα μεν παντα των αντιλεγομενων αν ειη.

Among the illegitimate [books] must be ordered the writing of the Acts of Paul, that called the Shepherd, and the apocalypse of Peter, and on top of these the extant epistle of Barnabas, and those called the teachings of the apostles, and yet, as I said, the apocalypse of John, if it appears right, which some, as I said, set aside, but others adjudge it among the confessed [books]. And some indeed catalogue also the gospel according to the Hebrews among these, in which those of the Hebrews who have accepted Christ especially rejoice. All these might be of the disputed [books].

Gospel of Peter.
Gospel of Thomas.
Gospel of Matthias.
Acts of Andrew.
Acts of John.

Αναγκαιως δε και τουτων ομως τον καταλογον πεποιημεθα, διακριναντες τας τε κατα την εκκλησιαστικην παραδοσιν αληθεις και απλαστους και ανωμολογημενας γραφας, και τας αλλας παρα ταυτας, ουκ ενδιαθηκους μεν αλλα και αντιλεγομενας, ομως δε παρα πλειστοις των εκκλησιαστικων προφερομενας, ητοι ως Πετρου και Θωμα και Ματθια, η και τινων παρα τουτους αλλων ευαγγελια περιεχουσας, η ως Ανδρεου και Ιωαννου και των αλλων αποστολων πραξεις, ων ουδεν ουδαμως εν συγγραμματι των κατα διαδοχας εκκλησιαστικων τις ανηρ εις μνημην αγαγειν ηξιωσεν. πορρω δε που και ο της φρασεως παρα το ηθος το αποστολικον εναλλαττει χαρακτηρ, η τε γνωμη και η των εν αυτοις φερομενων προαιρεσις πλειστον οσον της αληθους ορθοδοξιας απαδουσα οτι δη αιρετικων ανδρων αναπλασματα τυγχανει, σαφως παριστησιν· οθεν ουδ εν νοθοις αυτα κατατακτεον, αλλ ως ατοπα παντη και δυσσεβη παραιτητεον.

But we have also necessarily made a catalogue of these likewise, judging between those writings which are, according to the ecclesiastical tradition, true and genuine and confessed and the others with these, not testamental but indeed disputed, but likewise available to most of the ecclesiastical men, either gospels held forth as of Peter or of Thomas or of Matthias, or also of certain others besides these, or the acts as of Andrew or of John and the other apostles, of which none of the ecclesiastical men in the succession has in any way seen fit to make mention in his writing. And moreover, somehow even the character of the phrasing differs from the apostolic style, and the opinion and tendency of those things extant in them is so very far from the true orthodoxy that it is indeed clear that they happen to be the forgeries of heretical men. They ought therefore not even to be ordered among the illegitimate [books], but shunned as altogether improper and irreligious.


The canon of Mommsen.

Canon of Mommsen, also known as the Cheltenham canon (probably century IV, but discovered in a manuscript of century X):

Four gospels.
Thirteen Pauline epistles.
Acts 1-4, 5-7, 8-11, 12-14, 15-18, 19-21, 22-25, 26-28.
Apocalypse 1-4, 5-8, 9-12, 13-16, 17-22.
Three epistles of John, one only (?).
Two epistles of Peter, one only (?).

Sed ut in apocalypsi Iohannis dictum est: Vidi XXIIII seniores mittentes coronas suas ante thronum, maiores nostri probant hos libros esse canonicos et hoc dixisse seniores.

Item indiculum novi testamenti:

But as it is said in the apocalypse of John: I saw twenty-four elders offering their crowns before the throne, our forebears approved that these books are canonical and that the elders said this. The index, then, of the New Testament [runs as follows]: The four gospels, [being] Matthew, 2700 verses; Mark, 1700 verses; John, 1800 verses; Luke, 3300 verses; all [of these together] are 10000 verses; the epistles of Paul, thirteen in number; the acts of the apostles, 3600 lines; the apocalypse, 1800 lines; the three epistles of John, 350 lines, one only; the two epistles of Peter, 300 lines, one only.


The Apostolic Constitutions canon list.

Apostolic Constitutions 8.47.85b:

Four gospels.
Fourteen Pauline epistles.
Epistle to the Romans 1-4, 5-8, 9-12, 13-16.
Epistle 1 to the Corinthians 1-4, 5-8, 9-12, 13-16.
Epistle 2 to the Corinthians 1-4, 5-8, 9-13.
Epistle to the Galatians 1-6.
Epistle to the Ephesians 1-6.
Epistle to the Philippians 1-4.
Epistle to the Colossians 1-4.
Epistle 1 to the Thessalonians 1-5.
Epistle 2 to the Thessalonians 1-3.
Epistle 1 to Timothy 1-6.
Epistle 2 to Timothy 1-4.
Epistle to Titus 1-3.
Epistle to Philemon 1.
Epistle to the Hebrews 1-4, 5-8, 9-13.
Epistle of James 1-5.
Epistle 1 of John 1-5.
Epistle 2 of John 1.
Epistle 3 of John 1.
Epistle of Jude 1.
Epistle 1 of Peter 1-5.
Epistle 2 of Peter 1-3.
Epistle 1 of Clement 1-16, 17-32, 33-48, 49-65.
Epistle 2 of Clement 1-10, 11-20.
Apostolic Constitutions.
Acts 1-4, 5-7, 8-11, 12-14, 15-18, 19-21, 22-25, 26-28.

Ημετερα δε, τουτ εστι της καινης διαθηκης, ευαγγελια μεν τεσσαρα, ως και εν τοις προλαβουσιν ειπομεν, Ματθαιου, Μαρκου, Λουκα, Ιωαννου, Παυλου επιστολαι δεκατεσσαρες, Ιακωβου μια, Ιωαννου τρεις, Ιουδα μια, Πετρου δυο, Κλημεντος δυο, και αι διαταγαι υμιν τοις επισκοποις δι εμου Κλημεντος εν οκτω βιβλιοις προσπεφωνημεναι, ας ου χρη δημοσιευειν επι παντων δια τα εν αυταις μυστικα, και αι πραξεις ημων των αποστολων.

But our [books], that is, those of the New Testament, are the four gospels, as we have also said in the foregoing, of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, the fourteen epistles of Paul, one of James, three of John, one of Jude, two of Peter, two of Clement, and the constitutions dedicated to you the bishops by me, Clement, in eight books, which it is not necessary to publicize before all on account of the mysteries in them, and the Acts of us, the Apostles.


The Laodicean synod canon.

Canons 59-60 of the Laodicean synod (year 360):

Οτι ου δει ιδιωτικους ψαλμους λεγεσθαι εν τη εκκλησια, ουδε ακανονιστα βιβλια, αλλα μονα τα κανονικα της καινης και παλαιας διαθηκης. οσα δει βιβλια αναγινωσκεσθαι. ....

[It is resolved] that private psalms must not be read in the church, nor noncanonical books, but rather only the canonical books of the New and the Old Testament. The books which must be read [are the following]. ....

Four gospels.
Acts 1-4, 5-7, 8-11, 12-14, 15-18, 19-21, 22-25, 26-28.
Catholic epistles.
Pauline epistles.

Καινης διαθηκης·

Of the New Testament:

Four gospels: According to Matthew, according to Mark, according to Luke, according to John. The acts of the apostles. Seven catholic epistles, thus: 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, one to Philemon.


The Athanasian canon.

Athanasius, festal epistle 39.7-9, 11-12 (year 367):

Four gospels.
Acts 1-4, 5-7, 8-11, 12-14, 15-18, 19-21, 22-25, 26-28.
Catholic epistles.
Pauline epistles.
Apocalypse 1-4, 5-8, 9-12, 13-16, 17-22.

Τα δε της καινης παλιν ουκ οκνητεον ειπειν. εστι γαρ ταυτα· ευαγγελια τεσσαρα, κατα Ματθαιον, κατα Μαρκον, κατα Λουκαν, και κατα Ιωαννην. ειτα μετα ταυτα πραξεις αποστολων και επιστολαι καθολικαι καλουμεναι των αποστολων επτα ουτως· Ιακωβου μεν μια, Πετρου δε δυο, ειτα Ιωαννου τρεις και μετα ταυτας Ιουδα μια. προς τουτοις Παυλου αποστολου εισιν επιστολαι δεκατεσσαρες, τη ταξει γραφομεναι ουτως· Πρωτη προς Ρωμαιους, ειτα προς Κορινθιους δυο, και μετα ταυτας προς Γαλατας και εξης προς Εφεσιους, ειτα προς Φιλιππησιους και προς Κολοσσαεις και προς Θεσσαλονικεις δυο και η προς Εβραιους, και εξης προς μεν Τιμοθεον δυο, προς δε Τιτον μια και τελευταια η προς Φιλημονα μια. και παλιν Ιωαννου αποκαλυψις. ....

And there should be no hesitation to say again the [books] of the New [Testament]; for they are these: Four gospels, namely according to Matthew, according to Mark, according to Luke, and according to John. Then after these the Acts of the Apostles and the seven epistles, called catholic, of the apostles, thus: One of James, two of Peter, then three of John and after these one of Jude. In addition to these there are fourteen epistles of Paul the apostle, written in order thus: First to the Romans, then two to the Corinthians, and after these to the Galatians and after that to the Ephesians, then to the Philippians and to the Colossians and two to the Thessalonians and that to the Hebrews, and after that two to Timothy, and one to Titus, and finally the one to Philemon. And again the apocalypse of John. ....

Teaching of the Apostles 1-16.
Shepherd of Hermas.

Αλλ ενεκα γε πλειονος ακριβειας προστιθημι και τουτο, γραφων αναγκαιως, ως εστι και ετερα βιβλια τουτων εξωθεν, ου κανονιζομενα μεν, τετυπωμενα δε παρα των πατερων αναγινωσκεσθαι τοις αρτι προσερχομενοις και βουλομενοις κατηχεισθαι τον της ευσεβειας λογον· Σοφια Σολομωντος και σοφια Σιραχ και Εσθηρ και Ιουδιθ και Τωβιας και διδαχη καλουμενη των αποστολων και ο ποιμην. και ομως, αγαπητοι, κακεινων κανονιζομενων και τουτων αναγινωσκομενων, ουδαμου των αποκρυφων μνημη, αλλα αιρετικων εστιν επινοια, γραφοντων μεν οτε θελουσιν αυτα, χαριζομενων δε και προστιθεντων αυτοις χρονους, ινα ως παλαια προφεροντες προφασιν εχωσιν απαταν εκ τουτων τους ακεραιους.

But I add this also, writing of necessity for the sake of complete accuracy, that there are other also other books outside these, not canonized, but molded by the fathers to be read to those now coming in and wishing to be catechized in the word of religion: The wisdom of Solomon and the wisdom of Sirach and Esther and Judith and Tobias and what is called the teaching of the apostles and the Shepherd. However, beloved, even with the former being canonized and the latter being read, there is not in any way any mention of the apocryphal [books], but they are rather the intent of heretics, who write them whenever they wish, granting and assigning them [spurious] times [of composition], so that they might present them as old and have a pretense to deceive the innocent from them.


The Epiphanian canon.

Epiphanius, Panarion 76.22:

Four gospels.
Pauline epistles.
Catholic epistles.
Epistle of James.
Epistles of Peter.
Epistles of John.
Epistle of Jude.
Apocalypse of John.
Wisdom of Solomon.
Wisdom of the son of Sirach.

Ει γαρ ης εξ αγιου πνευματος γεγεννημενος, και προφηταις και αποστολοις μεμαθητευμενος, εδει σε διελθοντα απ αρχης γενεσεως κοσμου αχρι των της Αισθηρ χρονων, εν εικοσι και επτα βιβλοις παλαιας διαθηκης, εικοσι δυο αριθμουμενοις, τετταρσι δε αγιους ευαγγελιοις, και εν τεσσαρσικαιδεκα επιστολαις του αγιου αποστολου Παυλου, και εν ταις προ τουτων και συν ταις εν τοις αυτων χρονοις πραξεσι των αποστολων καθολικαις επιστολαις Ιακωβου και Πετρου και Ιωαννου και Ιουδα, και εν τη του Ιωαννου αποκαλυψει, εν τε ταις σοφιας, Σολομωντος τε φημι και υιου Σειραχ, και πασαις απλως γραφαις θειαις, και εαυτου καταγνωναι οτι ονομα οπερ ουδαμου εντετακται [ηλθες ημιν φερων] ουκ απρεπες μεν θεω, αλλ ευσεβες εις θεον, το του αγεννητου ονομα, μηδαμου δε εν θεια γραφη ρηθεν.

For had you been begotten from the holy spirit, and learned from the prophets and apostles, you would have been bound, having gone from the beginning of the genesis of the world through until the times of Esther, in twenty and seven books of the Old Testament, numbered as twenty-two, and [in] the four holy gospels, and in the fourteen epistles of the holy apostle Paul, and, before these and along with the Acts of the Apostles, in their times, in the catholic epistles of James and of Peter and of John and of Jude, and in the apocalypse of John, and in the wisdom, I mean of Solomon and of the son of Sirach, and simply [in] all the divine scriptures, to know even for yourself that [you come to us bearing] a name which has nowhere been ordered, not unfitting to God, but rather religious toward God, but the name of the unbegotten book is nowhere spoken of in the holy scripture.


The Carthaginian synod canon.

Canon 47 of the Carthaginian synod (year 397):

Item placuit ut praeter scripturas canonicas nihil in ecclesia legatur sub nomine divinarum scripturarum. sunt autem canonicae scripturae hae: ....

Four gospels.
Pauline epistles.
Epistle to the Hebrews.
Epistles of Peter.
Epistles of John.
Epistle of James.
Epistle of Jude.
Apocalypse of John.

Novi autem testamenti:

.... Liceat autem legi passiones martyrum cum anniversarii eorum dies celebrantur.

Likewise it was pleasing that nothing should be read in the church under the name of the divine scriptures except the canonical scriptures. The canonical scriptures, then, are these: .... Of the New Testament: Four books of the gospels, one book of the acts of the apostles, thirteen epistles of the apostle Paul, and one of his to the Hebrews, two of the apostle Peter, three of John, one of James, one of Jude, and the apocalypse of John, one book. .... But let it be allowed that the passions of the martyrs be read when the days of their anniversaries are celebrated.


The Claromontanus canon catalogue.

Claromontanus (D) catalogue (century VI):

Four gospels.
Pauline epistles.
Epistle of James 1-5.
Epistle 1 of John 1-5.
Epistle 2 of John 1.
Epistle 3 of John 1.
Epistle of Jude 1.
Epistle of Barnabas 1-4, 5-8, 9-12, 13-16, 17-21.
Revelation 1-4, 5-8, 9-12, 13-16, 17-22.
Acts 1-4, 5-7, 8-11, 12-14, 15-18, 19-21, 22-25, 26-28.
The Shepherd.
Acts of Paul.
Revelation of Peter.

Versus scribturarum sanctarum ita: ....

The verses of the holy scriptures are thus: The four gospels, [being] Matthew, 2600 verses; John, 2000 verses; Mark, 1600 verses; Luke, 2900 verses; the epistles of Paul, to the Romans, 1040 verses; the first to the Corinthians, 1060 verses; the second to the Corinthians, 70 verses; to the Galatians, 350 verses; to the Ephesians, 375 verses; the first to Timothy, 208 verses; the second to Timothy, 289 verses; to Titus, 140 verses; to the Colossians, 251 verses; to Philemon, 50 verses; the first to Peter, 200 verses; the second to Peter, 140 verses; of James, 220 verses; the first epistle of John, 220; the second epistle of John, 20; the third epistle of John, 20; the epistle of Jude, 60 verses; the epistle of Barnabas, 850 verses; the revelation of John, 1200; the acts of the apostles, 2600; of the Shepherd, 4000 verses; the acts of Paul, 3560 verses; the revelation of Peter, 270.


The stichometry of Nicephorus.

Nicephorus (pseudo-Nicephorus?), appendix to the Chronography:

Και οσαι θειαι γραφαι εκκλησιαζομεναι και κεκανονισμεναι, και η τουτων στιχομετρια, ουτως·

And as many are the divine scriptures accepted by the church and canonized, and their stichometry, thus:

αʹ. Γενεσις, στιχοι ͵δτʹ.
βʹ. Εξοδος, στιχοι ͵βωʹ.
γʹ. Λευιτικον, στιχοι ͵βψʹ.
δʹ. Αριθμοι, στιχοι ͵γχλʹ.
εʹ. Δευτερονομιον, στιχοι ͵γρʹ.
ςʹ. Ιησους, στιχοι ͵βρʹ.
ζʹ. Κριται και Ρουθ, στιχοι ͵βνʹ.
ηʹ. Βασιλειων αʹ και βʹ, στιχοι ͵δσμʹ.
θʹ. Βασιλειων γʹ και δʹ, στιχοι ͵βσγʹ.
ιʹ. Παραλειπομενα αʹ και βʹ, στιχοι ͵εφʹ.
ιαʹ. Εσδρας αʹ και βʹ, στιχοι ͵εφʹ.
ιβʹ. Βιβλος ψαλμων, στιχοι ͵ερʹ.
ιγʹ. Παροιμιαι Σαλομωντος, στιχοι ͵αψʹ.
ιδʹ. Εκκλησιαστης, στιχοι ͵ζφʹ.
ιεʹ. Ασμα ασματων, στιχοι σπʹ.
ιςʹ. Ιωβ, στιχοι ͵αωʹ.
ιζʹ. Ησαιας προφητης, στιχοι ͵γωʹ.
ιηʹ. Ιερεμιας προφητης, στιχοι ͵δʹ.
ιθʹ. Βαρουχ, στιχοι ψʹ.
κʹ. Ιεζεκιηλ, στιχοι ͵δʹ.
καʹ. Δανιηλ, στιχοι ͵βʹ.
κβʹ. Οι δωδεκα προφηται, στιχοι ͵γʹ.

Ομου της παλαιας διαθηκης βιβλια εικοσι δυο.

Genesis, 4300 verses. Exodus, 2800 verses. Leviticus, 2700 verses. Numbers, 3530 verses. Deuteronomy, 3100 verses. Joshua, 2100 verses. Judges and Ruth, 2050 verses. Kings, first and second, 4210 verses. Kings, third and fourth, 2203 [or ͵βσʹ, 2200] verses. Remainder [of Jeremiah], first and second, 5500 verses. Esdras, first and second, 5500 verses. Book of the psalms, 5100 verses. Proverbs of Solomon, 1700 verses. Ecclesiastes, 7500 verses (?). Song of songs, 280 verses. Job, 1800 verses. Isaiah the prophet, 3800 verses. Jeremiah the prophet, 4000 verses. Baruch, 700 verses. Ezekiel, 4000 verses. Daniel, 2000 verses. Twelve prophets, 3000 verses. The books of the Old Testament together are twenty-two.

Της νεας διαθηκης·

αʹ. Ευαγγελιον κατα Ματθαιον, στιχοι ͵βφʹ.
βʹ. Ευαγγελιον κατα Μαρκον, στιχοι ͵βʹ.
γʹ. Ευαγγελιον κατα Λουκαν, στιχοι ͵βχʹ.
δʹ. Ευαγγελιον κατα Ιωαννην, στιχοι ͵βτʹ.
εʹ. Πραξεις των αποστολων, στιχοι ͵βωʹ.
ςʹ. Παυλου επιστολαι, ιδʹ, στιχοι ͵ετʹ.
ζʹ. Καθολικαι, ζʹ, Ιακωβου αʹ, Πετρου βʹ, Ιωαννου γʹ, Ιουδα αʹ.

Ομου της νεας διαθηκης βιβλια κςʹ.

Of the New Testament [the books are as follows]: Gospel according to Matthew, 2500 verses. Gospel according to Mark, 2000 verses. Gospel according to Luke, 2600 verses. Gospel according to John, 2300 verses. Acts of the apostles, 2800 verses. Epistles of Paul, fourteen, 5300 verses. Catholic [epistles], seven, [namely] one of James, two of Peter, three of John, [and] one of Jude. The books of the New Testament together are twenty-six.

Και οσαι αντιλεγονται της παλαιας αυται εισιν·

αʹ. Μακκαβαικα, γʹ, στιχοι ͵ζτʹ.
βʹ. Σοφια Σολομωντος, στιχοι ͵αρʹ.
γʹ. Σοφια υιου του Σιραχ, στιχοι ͵βωʹ.
δʹ. Ψαλμοι και ωδαι Σολομωντος, στιχοι ͵βρʹ.
εʹ. Εσθηρ, στιχοι τνʹ.
ςʹ. Και Ιουδηθ, στιχοι ͵αψʹ.
ζʹ. Σωσαννα, στιχοι φʹ.
ηʹ. Τωβητ ο και Τοβιας, στιχοι ψʹ.

And as many as are disputed of the Old Testament are these: Three [books] of the Maccabees, 7300 verses. Wisdom of Solomon, 1100 verses. Wisdom of the son of Sirach, 2800 verses. Psalms and odes of Solomon, 2100 verses. Esther, 350 verses. And Judith, 1700 verses. Susanna, 500 verses. Tobit, who is also [called] Tobias, 700 verses.

Και οσαι της νεας αντιλεγονται·

αʹ. Αποξαλυψις Ιωαννου, στιχοι ͵αυʹ.
βʹ. Αποκαλυψις Πετρου, στιχοι τʹ.
γʹ. Βαρναβα επιστολη, στιχοι ͵ατξʹ.
δʹ. Ευαγγελιον κατα Εβραιους, στιχοι ͵βσʹ.

And as many as are disputed of the New Testament [are these]: Apocalypse of John, 1400 verses. Apocalypse of Peter, 300 verses. Epistle of Barnabas, 1360 verses. Gospel according to the Hebrews, 2200 verses.

Και οσα αποκρυφα της παλαιας·

1 Enoch.
Prayer of Joseph.
Testament of Moses.
Assumption of Moses.
Wisdom of Sirach.
El[d]ad and Modad.
Apocalypse of Elijah.
Apocalypse of Zephaniah.
Zechariah father of John.
Pseudepigrapha of Baruch, Habakkuk, Ezekiel, and Daniel.

αʹ. Ενωχ, στιχοι ͵δωʹ.
βʹ. Πατριαρχαι, στιχοι ͵ερʹ.
γʹ. Προσευχη Ιωσηφ, στιχοι ͵αρʹ.
δʹ. Διαθηκη Μωυσεως, στιχοι ͵αρʹ.
εʹ. Αναληψις Μωυσεως, στιχοι ͵αυʹ.
ςʹ. Αβρααμ, στιχοι τʹ.
ζʹ. Ηλαδ και Μωδαδ, στιχοι υʹ.
ηʹ. Ελια προφητου, στιχοι ͵γιςʹ.
θʹ. Σοφονιου προφητου, στιχοι χʹ.
ιʹ. Ζαχαριου πατρος Ιωαννου, στιχοι φʹ.
ιαʹ. Βαρουχ, Αββακουμ, Εζεκιηλ, και Δανιηλ ψευδεπιγραφα.

And as many as are apocryphal of the Old Testament [are these]: Enoch, 4800 verses. Patriarchs, 5100 verses. Prayer of Joseph, 1100 verses. Testament of Moses, 1100 verses. Assumption of Moses, 1400 verses. Abraham, 300 verses. El[d]ad and Modad, 400 verses. Of Elijah the prophet, 3016 verses. Of Zephaniah the prophet, 600 verses. Of Zechariah the father of John, 500 verses. Pseudepigrapha of Baruch, Habakkuk, Ezekiel, and Daniel.

Και οσα της νεας αποκρυφα·

Journeys of Peter.
Journey of John.
Journey of Thomas.
Gospel of Thomas.
1 and 2 Clement.
Ignatius, Polycarp, Hermas.

αʹ. Περιοδοι Πετρου, στιχοι ͵βψνʹ.
βʹ. Περιοδος Ιωαννου, στιχοι ͵βχʹ.
γʹ. Περιοδος Θωμα, στιχοι #αψʹ.
δʹ. Ευαγγελιον κατα Θωμαν, στιχοι ͵απʹ.
εʹ. Διδαχη αποστολων, στιχοι σʹ.
ςʹ. Κλημεντος αʹ, βʹ, στιχοι ͵βχʹ.
ζʹ. Ιγνατιου, Πολυκαρπου, Ποιμενος [και] Ερμα.

And as many as are apocryphal of the New Testament [are these]: Journeys of Peter, 2750 verses. Journey of John, 2600 verses. Journey of Thomas, 1700 verses. Gospel according to Thomas, 1300 verses. Teaching of the apostles, 200 verses. Of Clement, first [and] second, 2600 verses. Of Ignatius, of Polycarp, of the Shepherd [and] of Hermas.

Master list.
Four gospels.
Gospel According to Matthew 1-4, 5-7, 8-11, 12-14, 15-18, 19-21, 22-25, 26-28.
Gospel According to Mark 1-4, 5-8, 9-12, 13-16.
Gospel According to Luke 1-3, 4-6, 7-9, 10-12, 13-15, 16-18, 19-21, 22-24.
Gospel According to John 1-4, 5-8, 9-12, 13-16, 17-21.
Acts 1-4, 5-7, 8-11, 12-14, 15-18, 19-21, 22-25, 26-28.
Pauline epistles.
Epistle to the Romans 1-4, 5-8, 9-12, 13-16.
Epistle 1 to the Corinthians 1-4, 5-8, 9-12, 13-16.
Epistle 2 to the Corinthians 1-4, 5-8, 9-13.
Epistle to the Galatians 1-6.
Epistle to the Ephesians 1-6.
Epistle to the Philippians 1-4.
Epistle to the Colossians 1-4.
Epistle 1 to the Thessalonians 1-5.
Epistle 2 to the Thessalonians 1-3.
Epistle 1 to Timothy 1-6.
Epistle 2 to Timothy 1-4.
Epistle to Titus 1-3.
Epistle to Philemon 1.
Epistle to the Hebrews 1-4, 5-8, 9-13.
Epistle of James 1-5.
Epistle 1 of Peter 1-5.
Epistle 2 of Peter 1-3.
Epistle 1 of John 1-5.
Epistle 2 of John 1.
Epistle 3 of John 1.
Epistle of Jude 1.
Apocalypse 1-4, 5-8, 9-12, 13-16, 17-22.
Acts of Paul.
Acts of Peter.
Acts of Thomas.
Shepherd of Hermas.
Apocalypse of Peter.
Epistle of Barnabas 1-4, 5-8, 9-12, 13-16, 17-21.
Teachings of the Apostles 1-16.
Gospel according to the Hebrews.
Gospel of Peter.
Gospel of Thomas.
Gospel of Matthias.
Acts of Andrew.
Acts of John.
Epistle 1 of Clement 1-16, 17-32, 33-48, 49-65.
Epistle 2 of Clement 1-10, 11-20.
Ignatius to the Ephesians 1-21.
Ignatius to the Magnesians 1-15.
Ignatius to the Trallians 1-13.
Ignatius to the Romans 1-10.
Ignatius to the Philadelphians 1-11.
Ignatius to the Smyrnaeans 1-13.
Ignatius to Polycarp 1-8.
Polycarp to the Philippians 1-14.
Martyrdom of Polycarp 1-22.
Diognetus 1-12.

Also, see:
Ecumenical Church Councils

(See also Antilegomena; Homologoumena.)

The individual articles presented here were generally first published in the early 1980s. This subject presentation was first placed on the Internet in December 1997.

This page - - - - is at
This subject presentation was last updated on - -

Copyright Information

Send an e-mail question or comment to us: E-mail

The main BELIEVE web-page (and the index to subjects) is at: BELIEVE Religious Information Source - By Alphabet