How Did We Get *These* 27 Books in the New Testament?

I often receive questions about how we got the canon of the New Testament.   We have twenty-seven books in it.  Who decided?  On what grounds?  And when?  Here is a recent question on the matter.

 

QUESTION

I have always wondered about the men (only men!) who decided “this one’s in . . . that one’s out!” back in 325 (was it 325?) at Trullan, Rome, Trent and where else? Nicea?

 

RESPONSE:

The first thing to emphasize is that the most common answer one hears ...

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Is It Ever Right to Lie? Or Was It? Even in Early Christianity? The Relevance for Forgery.

Is it ever morally acceptable – even desirable – to tell a bald-faced lie?  That was probably a topic covered in your Philosophy 101 course.  At a historian, I’m interested in the question from an ancient perspective.  What did people in antiquity think about it?  In particular Christians.  Did they think – based on the Ten Commandments, say, or the teachings of Jesus, that a person should never lie?  Or were they quite lax on the matter?  Or something in ...

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Were Ancient Readers Interested in Detecting Forgeries?

I continue now with my lecture this past week on whether ancient readers and writers considered pseudepigraphic writing – in which an author claimed to be someone else (always someone famous) – was seen as deceitful, a kind of literary lie, and is therefore appropriately, in an ancient context, appropriately considered by thos of us today, “forgery.”  This is Part 2 of 4.

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I do not need to give an extensive account of all the instances of ancient Echtheitskritik ...

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Did Superior Health Care Lead to the Dominance of Christianity?

Interesting question from a recent member of the blog:

 

QUESTION:

In the August 5/12 New Yorker, a review of a new book, “The mosquito: A Human History of our Deadliest Predator.” In this review, this sentence: “In the third century, malaria epidemics helped drive people to a small, much persecuted faith that emphasized healing and care of the sick, propelling Christianity into a world-altering religion.” I realize that medical history is not your thing. If nonetheless you’d care to comment, any warrant ...

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But WHY Doesn’t Torture Hurt?? Guest Post by Stephanie Cobb

This now is the final of Stephanie Cobb’s posts on the painlessness of martyrdom, as explained more fully in her recent book.  And now we get to the heart of the matter: if it doesn’t hurt, uh, why is that???

Again, Stephanie has graciously agreed to answer your questions — so ask away.

If you were a member of the blog, you would get access to all the posts, five times a week, instead of just one occasionally.  It’s terrific ...

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How Could Torture Not Hurt?? Guest Post by Stephanie Cobb

Here now is the second of three posts by Stephanie Cobb on her recent book about early Christian accounts of the martyrs.  As you’ll see, she makes some rather astonishing and counter-intuitive claims.  But I think she’s completely right.   This is fascinating material….

 

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In the previous post, I detailed the reasons martyr texts ought to focus on the suffering and pain of early Christians experiencing torture and being executed for their faith. I also, though, noted that despite those ...

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Did It Hurt to Be Martyred? The Surprising Answer. Guest Post by Stephanie Cobb.

One of my most accomplished former students is Stephanie Cobb, now the George and Sallie Cutchin Camp Professor of Bible in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Richmond.   While doing her PhD at UNC, Stephanie became deeply interested in the accounts of martyrdom in early Christianity, leading to a dissertation with one of the best titles ever (it really does describe the book but it’s unusually clever): Dying to be Men: Gender and Language in Early Christian ...

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Interview for “Letters & Politics” on The Triumph of Christianity

Here is an interview I did on my book The Triumph of Christianity, back on December 25th, 2018, with host Mitch Jeserich.  The program was called “Letters & Politics,” for FM 94.1 KPFA. The theme of my book, as you know, is how the Christians took over the religions of the Roman Empire to become the dominant religion of the west.  Mitch wanted to know about that.  Many years ago, when I started thinking about my book, so ...

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What Kind of Book Was Papias Writing? Guest Post by Stephen Carlson

This is the second part of Stephen Carlson’s guest post on the important but now-lost work of the early-second century Christian author Papias.  In the previous post he talked about the mind-boggling abundance of wine and wheat there would be in the kingdom, based on Papias’s reporting of a “word of the Lord.”    Now he explains that saying, and in doing so develops a bold way of understanding what kind of book Papias actually was trying to write.   Most of ...

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The Passion for Origins

After I had engaged for a couple of months doing some real research and thinking seriously about my scholarly book on visions of and journeys to the realms of heaven and hell (tentatively entitled, for now, Otherworldly Journeys: Katabasis Traditions in Early Christianity), I thought I might start it all by doing a kind of history of research.   This is how scholarly books commonly used to start – especially books of German scholarship and American dissertations.  Chapter one would be ...

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