How We Got Our 27-Book New Testament: The Case of Didymus

As I pointed out in my previous post, when I was a graduate student I wanted to show that I was not interested only in New Testament textual criticism (using the surviving witnesses to establish what the authors of the New Testament originally wrote) but in a range of important historical and interpretive issues in early Christianity.   I wanted to be broad ranging.  And I wanted this already at the very beginning of my graduate work.

My first semester in the ...

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Jesus’ Teaching in Aramaic and the Books of the Canon: Mailbag February 24, 2017

There are two interesting questions in this week’s Readers’ Mailbag: one about Jesus’ teaching in Aramaic and the other about which books did not make it into the New Testament.  If you have a question yourself, ask it as a comment and I will add it to the burgeoning list!

 

QUESTION:

Even though Christ taught in Aramaic, was there absolutely nothing written down in Aramaic? Is there much of a language translation problem going from Aramaic to Greek? (Again, it’s mind boggling ...

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How We Got the New Testament (and not some other books!)

Many people (most people?) don’t realize that the collection of the books into the New Testament did not take a year or two.  It was *centuries* before there was any widespread agreement about which books to include and which to exclude (why include the Gospel of John but not the Gospel of Thomas?  Why include the Apocalypse of John but not the Apocalypse of Peter?).

Yesterday I started to explain how it all happened.  In this post I finish the task, ...

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Why Did We Get a New Testament?

In my past couple of posts I’ve talked about how the canon of the Hebrew Bible was formed.  That raises the obvious corollary of how the canon of the New Testament was formed.  Who decided we should have the twenty-seven books we do?  Why these books and not others?  Why were any books chosen at all?  When were these decisions made?  And what criteria were used to make the decisions?

To my surprise, I haven’t talked much about the process on ...

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Are Cephas and Peter Two Different People?

QUESTION:

I remember your saying that you once – wrongly – entertained a theory about “Cephas” and “Peter” being two different people. I *don’t* remember your explaining why you’d thought that, and what convinced you the theory was wrong. I’d still like to know!

 

RESPONSE:

I get asked this question on occasion and I’ve decided to do something unusual (for the blog) to answer it.  Years ago I wrote a controversial article on the topic for an academic journal.  Here I thought it ...

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Lost Gospels: The Greater Questions of Mary. A Blast From the Past

Here is a blast from the past — almost exactly four years ago now —  about one of my all time favorite “lost” Gospels.  If it ever existed.  One very imaginative church father certainly thought it did.  It was a Gospel featuring Mary Magdalene and a rather wild encounter she had with Jesus.  Here is what I said in the post of November 2012.

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I have been discussing some of the Gospels that we know about because they are ...

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What Is Gnosticism? A Blast from the Past

From time to time I get asked about Gnosticism.  What was it exactly?  I deal with the issue in a number of my books, as you may know.  Here is a summary statement that I published a couple of years ago on this date, based on my rewriting of the section on Gnosticism in my undergraduate textbook, The New Testamen: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings.

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Major Views of Various Gnostic ...

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Marcion as Alive and Well Among Us

As I’ve been thinking about Marcion over the past couple of days, it has occurred to me that in some ways he is still alive and well among us.  I have known Christians over the years who in fact have views in many ways close to what Marcion taught.  These people would, of course, deny they have anything like the touch of the heretic about them.  But at the end of the day, their views are not so different.  Maybe ...

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The Arch-Heretic Marcion’s Theology

I am discussing the relationship between Jesus and the Law of the Jews, and to get to that question I am dealing with how Christians about a century after Jesus’ life understood this relationship.  I began with Marcion and his followers, who thought that Jesus had nothing to do with the Law, since he represented a different God from the one who gave the Law.  The Law was given by the Creator of this world who called Israel to be ...

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The “Arch-Heretic” Marcion, Jesus, and the Jewish Law

In this thread I’ve started to talk about the relationship of Jesus to the Law of Moses.  I’m going to get to the issue by means of a circuitous route, by talking about how that relationship was understood by followers of Jesus living a hundred years after his day.  The reason for starting there is that we have a clearer idea what these followers thought than we do, say, of Jesus’ followers a decade after his death.  Those earlier followers ...

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