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SermonIndex.net : Christian Books : CHAPTER VIII. ORDER OF THE NEW TESTAMENT BOOKS.

The Canon Of The Bible by Samuel Davidson

CHAPTER VIII. ORDER OF THE NEW TESTAMENT BOOKS.

I. The arrangement of the various parts comprising the New Testament was fluctuating in the second century; less so in the third. In the fourth century the order which the books had commonly assumed in Greek MSS. and writers was; the Gospels, the Acts, the Catholic Epistles, the Pauline, and the Apocalypse. This sequence appears in the Vatican, Sinaitic, Alexandrian and Ephrem (C) MSS.; Cyril of Jerusalem, in the 60th Canon of the Laodicean Council, Athanasius, Leontius of Byzantium, &c.

II. Another order prevailed in the Latin Church, viz., the Gospels, the Acts, the Epistles of Paul, the Catholic Epistles, and the Apocalypse. This appears in Melito, Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Augustine, Jerome, the Vulgate, the Councils of Carthage, held in A.D.397 and 419; and is now the usual arrangement.

Within the limits of the two general arrangements just mentioned, there were many variations. Thus we find in relation to the gospels.

III. (a) Matthew, John, Luke, Mark; in the MSS. of the old Italic marked a, b, d, e, ff, and in the cod. argenteus of Ulfila's Gothic version.

(b) Matthew, John, Mark, Luke; in the council of Ephesus A.D.431, Cyril of Alexandria, Theodoret, the stichometry of the Clermont MS. Such was the usual order in the Greek Church of the fifth century.

(c) Mark is put first, followed by Matthew; in the fragment of a Bobbian MS. of the Itala at Turin marked k.

(d) Matthew, Mark, John, Luke; in the Curetonian Syriac gospels. They are mentioned in the same order in Origen's I. Homily on Luke.

The reason of the order in, (a) and (b) lies in apostleship. The works of apostles precede those of evangelists. The established sequence, which is already sanctioned by Irenaeus and Origen, has respect to the supposed dates of the gospels. Clement of Alexandria says that ancient tradition supposed those gospels having the genealogies to have been written before the others.

IV. As to the Acts of the Apostles, not only is this work put immediately after the gospels, which is the order in the Muratorian canon, but we find it in other positions.

(a) Gospels, Pauline Epistles, Acts; in the Sinaitic MS., the Peshito,(368) Jerome,(369) and Epiphanius.

(b) Gospels, Pauline Epistles, Catholic Epistles, Acts; in Augustine, the third council of Toledo, Isidore, Innocent I., Eugenius IV., and the Spanish Church generally.

(c) Gospels, Pauline, Catholic Epistles, Apocalypse, Acts; in the stichometry of the Clermont MS.

V. As to the Epistles of Paul, besides the place they now occupy in our Bibles, they sometimes follow the gospels immediately.

(a) Gospels, Pauline Epistles; the Sinaitic MS., Jerome, Epiphanius, Augustine, the third council of Toledo, Isidore, Innocent I., Eugenius IV., the stichometry of the Clermont MS.

(b) The usual order of the Greek Church is, Gospels, Acts, Catholic Epistles, Pauline, &c., as in Cyril of Jerusalem, the Laodicean Council (60), Athanasius, Leontius of Byzantium, the MSS. A. B., but not {HEBREW LETTER ALEF}. The critical Greek Testaments of Lachmann and Tischendorf adopt this order.

(c) They are placed last of all in a homily attributed to Origen, but this does not necessarily show that father's opinion.(370)

(d) They stand first of all in a Gallican Sacramentarium cited by Hody.(371)

VI. With respect to the order of the individual epistles, the current one has been thought as old as Tertullian and Clement of Alexandria. But the proof of this is precarious. It appears in the fourth century, and may have been prior to that. It is in Epiphanius, who supposes that the arrangement was the apostle's own. Not only was it the prevalent one in the Greek Church, but also in the Latin as we see from the codex Amiatinus, and the Vulgate MSS. generally. It rests upon the extent of the epistles and the relative importance of the localities in which the believers addressed resided.

(a) Marcion had but ten Pauline epistles in the following order: Galatians, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Romans, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, the Laodiceans, (Ephesians), Colossians, Philemon, Philippians.

(b) 1 and 2 Corinthians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Galatians, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, Romans, Philemon, Titus, 1 and 2 Timothy, to the Laodiceans, the Alexandrians (the Epistle to the Hebrews); in the Muratorian canon.

(c) Romans, Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Thessalonians, Colossians, Timothy, Titus, Philemon, Hebrews; in Augustine, and several MSS. of the Vulgate in England.(372)

(d) Romans, Corinthians, Galatians, Thessalonians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Timothy, Titus, Philemon, Hebrews; in the so-called decree of Gelasius in the name of Hormisdas, in Labbe's text. But here different MSS. vary in regard to the position of the Thessalonian epistles.

VII. The Laodicean letter was inserted either before the pastoral epistles, as in several MSS. of the Vulgate in England; or before the Thessalonian epistles preceding them; or at the end of the Epistle to the Hebrews, as in a MS. of the Latin Bible at Lembeth. Its insertion in copies of the Vulgate was owing to the authority of Gregory the Great, who looked upon it as authentic.

VIII. The position of the Epistle to the Hebrews usually was either before the pastoral epistles, i.e., immediately after those to the Thessalonians; or after the pastoral ones and Philemon. The former method was generally adopted in the Greek Church from the fourth century. The latter prevailed in the Latin Church from Augustine onward.

(a) Pauline epistles to churches (the last being the second to the Thessalonians), Hebrews, Timothy, Titus, Philemon; in the MSS. {HEBREW LETTER ALEF}, A. B. C. H., Athanasius, Epiphanius; Euthalius,(373) Theodoret. Jerome mentions it after the epistles of Paul to the seven churches as an eighth excluded by the majority, and proceeds to specify the pastoral ones. But Amphilochius and Ebedjesu the Syrian have the western order, viz., the following --

(b) Pauline Epistles, Hebrews (following immediately that to Philemon); in Augustine and the Vulgate version generally. It is so in the canons of the councils at Hippo and Carthage (A.D.393 and 397), and in the MSS. D. and G., in Isidore of Spain, and the council of Trent.

IX. With respect to the order of the Catholic Epistles, which were not all adopted into the canon till the end of the fourth century; Eusebius putting all except 1 John and 1 Peter among the antilegomena; while Jerome, and the council of Carthage (A.D.397) admit them unreservedly; the usual order, viz., James, 1 and 2 Peter, John, Jude, prevailed in the Eastern Church. It is in the Peshito or old Syriac version, Eusebius, Cyril of Jerusalem, Epiphanius, the 60th of the Laodicean canons, Athanasius, Gregory of Nazianzus, Amphilochius, the stichometry of Nicephorus, the MSS. {HEBREW LETTER ALEF}. A. B. C., and most Greek MS. But the 76th of the Apostolic canons has Peter, John, James and Jude. The canon, however, is comparatively late.

(a) Peter, John, Jude, James; in Philastrius of Brescia. If we may rely on Cassiodorus's account of Augustine, the African father followed the same arrangement.

(b) Peter, James, Jude, John; in Rufinus.

(c) Peter, John, James, Jude; in the councils of Carthage, A.D.397, 419, Cassiodorus, and a Gallican Sacramentarium. The Vulgate and council of Trent follow this arrangement.

(d) John, Peter, Jude, James; in the list given by Innocent I., and the third council of Toledo.

The Eastern church naturally set the Epistle of James, who was Bishop of Jerusalem, at the head of the others; while the Western put Peter, the Bishop of Rome, in the same place.

X. The Revelation varied little in position.

(a) In the decree of Galasius, according to its three recensions, the Revelation follows Paul's epistles, preceding those of John and the other Catholic ones.

(b) In D or the Clermont MS. it follows the Catholic epistles, and precedes the Acts; which last is thrown to the end of all the books, as if it were an appendix to the writings of the apostles.(374)

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