I have been providing the “Introduction” to my book After the New Testament. Here is the end of it. In this version, I include two additional paragraphs on chapters not found in my first edition (chapter 10 and chapter 14). I’ll explain why I added these chapters (and the reading s in them) along with the other changes that I have made in the book, in a subsequent post.

In reading through the new edition of the book – I’m virtually finished and ready to send it in to the publisher – I have been struck by just how significant these early texts that I anthologize are. Second and third century Christianity was a highly intriguing phenomenon, and there was a lot “to it.” As soon as I’m done with all my current writing projects (and the gods know when *that* will be) I am planning on writing a college-level textbook on the period, going from after the period right after the New Testament , around 100 CE, up through the Council of Nicea in 325 CE. But for now I need to settle for this second edition of my reader.


Given the wide dissemination of forgeries in the names of the apostles, different groups eventually had to decide which “apostolic” books were to be ascribed authority and which were not. The New Testament as we have it today comprises twenty-seven books that were collected and deemed Scripture by the group that won the early struggles for theological dominance. Other groups had other sets of books; and even within proto-orthodox circles, there was no complete agreement as to which books should be included and which rejected. This much can be seen from the various “canon” lists that survive from second- and third-century authors, Christians living many years before any final decisions were reached (the first “canon list” that gives exactly our own set of twenty-seven books was written in 367 CE — nearly 300 years after most of the books of the NT were actually written!). The most important surviving lists are presented in Chapter 9.


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