Monday, October 16, 2017

New Book: Biblical Canon Lists from Early Christianity

In just a couple weeks, those living in the UK (or those who order books thence) can pick up a copy of The Biblical Canon Lists from Early Christianity: Texts and Analysis, published by Oxford and written by yours truly along with John Meade. It goes on sale in the UK at the beginning of November, whereas we in the USA have to wait until the beginning of next year.

You can see a preview at Google Books, and of course you'll want to check out the Amazon page (US site, or UK site). It's offered for the very reasonable price of $45 or £35. Feel free to pre-order now.

The main attraction of the book--the reason you'll want your own copy--is because John and I have collected all the biblical canon lists from the first four centuries of Christianity, and we present them in the original languages and English translation (in parallel columns) with introductions and extensive notes. So, you've heard so much about the 39th Festal Letter of Athanasius, which listed for the first time in history the exact 27 books of the NT that we now accept, and you'd like to read the letter for yourself--our book has it, or the extant portions in Greek, anyway, with an English translation. Read the letter for yourself. We also print the Muratorian Fragment in Latin and English, and the canon list of Eusebius of Caesarea (Greek and English), and the various lists of Origen (in Greek/Latin and English). And, of course, many more: Jerome, Augustine, Gregory of Nazianzus, Cyril of Jerusalem, Epiphanius, Pope Innocent I, etc.

Most of these lists include the OT and the NT. We print all relevant portions, typically erring on the side of providing more than enough of the context rather than too little.

We recognize that Jewish canon lists are also important for study of the OT canon. Unfortunately, there aren't a whole lot of early Jewish lists, but there are the lists of Josephus (more of a discussion than a list) and the Talmud (Baba Bathra 14b). Despite the name of the book, with its focus on early Christianity, we do have a chapter in which we present these two Jewish lists, Josephus in Greek and English, the Talmudic list in Hebrew and English.

There is one Syriac list included, and a chapter on biblical manuscripts in Greek, Latin, and Syriac from the first millennium of Christianity. An appendix covers basic information about the books "on the fringe" of the canon (e.g., Esther, Tobit, Laodiceans, Gospel of Thomas, etc.). A substantial introduction (56 pages) surveys the development of the biblical canon, providing a context for study of the canon lists that follow.

We think it will be a book that scholars and students will want to refer to often when dealing with the biblical canon.


Eduardo Prado said...

Dear professor Gallagher:

I am reading this book which you wrote with John Meade. Recently, I saw in a Youtube channel an interview about the canon. The Interviewee was Lee Martin McDonald. There, he recommends very positively this book on canon lists.

One canon list which some scholars think might come from the 4th century is the one contained in the Decretum Gelasianum. I do not read German, so I haven´t been able to go through the analysis by von Dobschütz (his important study is available in the Internet Archive). Elsewhere you give a reference to a chapter in book on the OT canon written in French as a text where one can find a more recent assessment of this Decretum Gelasianum. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to see this French book (I can read a little Frech).

What is the general view, among scholars) on the Decretum Gelasianum in terms of its antiquity (does it really reflect the decisions of the Roman synod from 382 A.D.?) and authenticity?

I understand that in 1794, F. Arevalo proposed the view that parts 1-3 from this Decretum are the decrees from that Roman synod (382 A.D.). Does that mean that nobody ever referred to this “synodal” or “papal” decision as proof for the canon before the end of the XVIII century?

Finally, what is your personal assessment about the canon list contained in the Decretum Gelasiuanum? Does it go back to 382 A.D.? Why do some scholars still seem to cling to that old date (I’m thinking about Manlio Simonetti [Patrología, vol III] and Michael P. McHugh [Encyclopedia of Early Christianity])?

If you are willing to respond to all or some of my questions, I will be really grateful.

Thanks again for sharing your research in this blog,
Eduardo Prado

Ed said...

Dear Eduardo,

In my recently published article on the Latin canon in the _Textual History of the Bible_ (vol. 2), I mention briefly the Decretum Gelasianum and provide a reference to another source (again, in German). You can access a pre-publication of this essay by me at my page:

I still think the evidence connecting the canon list in the Decretum to the Council of Rome in 382 is very slight. I addressed some of that evidence in my first published article, which you can also find at my page:

Hopefully those pieces will help you. The Decretum is certainly an intriguing document, and deserves more careful attention than I can give it right now. Perhaps it will feature in an expanded second edition of our canon list book if we find the opportunity to do such an edition.

Eduardo Prado said...

Dear professor Gallagher:

Thank you very much for your kind response. I do hope you and professor Mead publish a second enlarged edition of your Canon lists book.

I’m reading your contribution for the Textual History of the Bible (The Latin Canon). It really is an enlightening text. And this is precisely the topic I have been reading about lately. So, your sharing this long article was really timely for me.

I hope I do not bother you with my comments:
I know you did not have space for something like this, but I wish you had said more about Augustine’s ideas on the OT canon. You suggest that Augustine did not accept all the books in his OT canon as having the same level of authority. That reminded me of something that I recently read in Essfeldt’s introduction to the OT:

But two different methods of counting them [the books of the canon] have come down to us from within Judaism, making totals of 22 and 24. The former, as we have seen (p. 563), is presupposed by Josephus, and is to be found among many church fathers who are clearly describing Jewish practice, viz. Melito, Origen, Eusebius, Cyril of Jerusalem, Epiphanius, Jerome and Augustine. The number 22 is arrived at by counting as one book each not only Sam., Kings, the twelve Minor Prophets, Ezra+Neh., Chron., but also Judg.,+Ruth and Jer.+Lam., and thus 17 may be subtracted from our 39.
Otto Eissfledt, The Old Testament : an introduction, (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1965) p. 569

When Eissfeldt mentions Augustine, he gives this article*, which I haven’t been able to get, as a reference in support of his statement. Eissfeldt doesn’t say clearly that Augustine had a similar view on the canon as Jerome, but he seems to imply this.
*Schultz, ‘Augustine and the Old Testament Canon’ BS 112, (1955), pp. 225-34.

Another thing that called my attention was something that I had already noticed by reading yours and Mead’s translations of Jerome´s canons lists. I’m talking about the fact that, when Jerome expounds his view on the OT canon, he speaks as something that the Church has received, not as the personal opinion from a scholar who is aware of the (supposedly given) fact that his is a view contrary to a long tradition.

I say this because, when I read Roman Catholic scholars, I find things like these:

En Occidente, la duda sobre la canonicidad de los libros excluidos del canon judío, aparecerá por primera vez con Rufino y san Jerónimo. […] En esto, san Jerónimo cantará extra chorum en el concierto de Occidente. Esta posición inducirá incluso a san Agustín, su más célebre adversario, a urgir en África inequívocas tomas de posición que serán en la Iglesia las primeras profesiones de fe oficiales en el canon tradicional, aun cuando no son definiciones del magisterio romano.
In the West, doubts about the canonicity of books excluded from the Jewish canon will appear for the first time with Rufinus and St. Jerome. […] In this [Jerome’s calling apocryphal those books not included in the 22-book-Jewish canon] St. Jerome will sing extra chorum in the Western concert. This position will lead even St. Augustine, his most famous adversary, to urge in Africa unequivocal stances which will be the first official professions of faith on the traditional canon, even if these are not definitions by the Roman magisterium.
A. Barucq and H. Cazelles in Intorducción a la Biblia, tomo primero, introducción general al Antiguo Testamento [A. Robert y Feuillet, (editores)] (Barcelona: Herder, 1965) p. 68, this is a Spanish translation from the work: Introductíon á la Bible I, Desclée et Cié., Éditeurs, Tournai 2 1962

Eduardo Prado said...

And here is a similar view:

San Jerónimo toma una decisión de traducir los textos del AT desde su original hebreo (aquí nace su defensa de la Hebraica Veritas) y para ello aprende hebreo en Belén y afronta su titánica empresa. Este proceso conoce diferentes etapas, algunas nada claras. Parece que es a lo largo de este proceso cuando se decanta por el canon restringido, auqnue siempre a título personal (cf. Praef. In Tob et Jud: PL 29,23-26.39-42; Praef In Sam et Mal: PL 28, 600).
St. Jerome decides to translate the OT texts from their original Hebrew [language] (this is when his defence of the Hebraica Veritas is born) and for that purpose he learns Hebrew in Bethlehem and undertakes his monumental enterprise. This process has different stages, some of which are not clear at all. It seems that it is through this process when he opts for the shorter canon, although this is always his personal view (cf. Praef. In Tob et Jud: PL 29,23-26.39-42; Praef In Sam et Mal: PL 28, 600).
Ignacio Carbajosa SJ “El canon de la Sagrada Escritura”, p. 14, a paper that I found on the Internet with this information on the first page: Facultad de Teología “San Dámaso” Introducción a la Sagrada Escritura, Madrid, 2007.

So, if your research is right, professor Gallagher, here we have two very common myths among Catholic scholars: 1. Jerome was innovative when he chose the shorter canon and his was an opinion (a very personal, particular opinion) that broke a long tradition (similar to his departing from the LXX as his textual base for the translation of the OT). And 2. Jerome once accepted the long canon (as most [Latin?] Christians did before him) and he changed his mind when he decided to translate the OT from the original Hebrew. These two myths have a common origin: they both take for granted (without real evidence, as far as I can see) that there was a long canon (with the so called deuterocanonical books) among Christians from a very early date. That’s why these Catholic scholars mention the allusions and quotations to these books in the apostolic fathers and Justine (that’s the closest thing to real evidence that I have found in these Catholic scholars). I wonder what kind of reactions your research has provoked among Catholic scholars. Have I understood your research on the Latin canon correctly?

Finally, I think I detected in your long article (I haven’t finished it yet) another myth which is common among Catholics (in this case, I’m not talking about Catholic scholars, I’m talking about Catholic apologists). If I understood what you wrote correctly, Augustine’s canon list, the African Councils resolutions (Hippo 393, Carthage 397, 419), the letter by pope Innocent I (405), and the Decretum Gelasianum DO NOT contain EXACTLY the same canon as the one solemnly declared in Trent (1546). Did I understand this correctly?

I hope I do not bother you with my long comments and questions. If you have time and patience, I will be glad to read your response whenever you can.

With kind regards,

Eduardo Prado

Ed said...

Dear Eduardo,

These are good questions.

1) On Augustine, I think he leaves the matter open for his readers as to which are the books of the canon, since he introduces his list of books with instructions about how to judge whether a book counts as "canonical" or not (look for the opinions of the most churches, and the most authoritative churches, etc.), and then he says about his list that these are the books on which such judgments should be made. I'm not sure what Eissfeldt meant by listing Augustine alongside the others. I looked at the article by Schultz, who does not exactly say what Eissfeldt makes you think he's going to say. But Augustine did realize that not all the books on his list were accepted in the Jewish Bible. Maybe that's what Eissfeldt meant.

2) I do think Jerome considered himself to be reaffirming Christian tradition on the canon, especially Eastern tradition. I think I talk about that in this article: Now your first Spanish quotation above is probably right: in the West, Jerome and Rufinus (and, earlier, Hilary) were probably the first ones to question these books in the West, and they were definitely influenced in their opinion by the East. But I would also point out that we do not have much in terms of explicit statements on the extent of the canon in the West before the mid-fourth century, when Hilary, and then Jerome and Rufinus, made their statements.

I think your second Spanish quotation is wrong in a few ways, specifically, in its attribution of a development in Jerome's views on text and canon. But the points you derive, Eduardo, I think are correct. Contrary to some views, Jerome was not innovative in advocating the shorter canon, and there is no discernible trace of a development in Jerome's views on the canon. And you're right that the idea that the deuterocanonical books were a constituent part of the Latin Bible from its origins is based on (1) the early translations of these books and (2) the quotations of and allusions to these books in the third century Latin writers. As for the reaction that my work has generated among Catholic scholars, I'm not sure.

3) Augustine's list of books basically matched the biblical canon promulgated at Trent, but there was one major difference. Augustine probably thought of 3Ezra as canonical, whereas Trent excludes it. The scholar I'm relying on here is a Roman Catholic, Pierre-Maurice Bogaert, who wrote a great article on the reception of the Ezra books in the Latin church.

All the best in your research!

Eduardo Prado said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Eduardo Prado said...

Dear professor Gallagher:

Thank you very much for addressing my questions and concerns. This time, I will not ask any questions. I just wanted to call your attention to a review of your book on canon lists from a young scholar (like yourself), but he is Catholic. There is one thing he says that is remarkably similar to Michael Kruger’s review on the same book: both reviewers think that you and professor Mead should have given an interpretation that tries to explain the reasons for the prevalence of these short canon lists up to the fourth century. This Catholic scholar proposes his own interpretation: If I understood him correctly, he thinks the fact that Eusebius included Josephus’, Melito’s, and Origen’s canon lists in his well-known (and read) Historia Ecclesiastica influenced greatly the other Christian writers from that same period (fourth century). I think he is trying to downplay the fact that our earliest and clearest pieces of evidence for a well-defined canon do not match Trent’s canon.

The scholar I’ve been talking about is Juan Carlos Ossandón and his review can be found here:

If you hadn’t read this review, I’ll be glad if I called you attention to it. I am sure some of the things he says are worth taking into consideration in case there is a second edition of your and Prof. Mead’s book.

With kind regards,

Eduardo Prado

Ed said...

Eduardo, thank you for the comment. I have read Ossandón's review; in fact, he sent it to John and me before its publication to make sure he represented our book accurately (a very nice thing to do). The criticism you mention is a good one; it would be very helpful to know why the lists became so prominent in the fourth century. I do not have a well-developed idea about this.

I appreciate the interaction, Eduardo.

Ed Gallagher