I’ve been arguing that Luke’s Gospel originally may not have had the story of Jesus’ virgin birth but portrayed Jesus as being adopted by God to be his son at the baptism. In the previous post I explained one strategy that could be used to “tame” an otherwise important and beloved text when it held a view that could be seen as problematic. You could edit it. But there are other ways as I explain here (taken from a paper I delivered orally to a group of scholars)
A second strategy that could be used and was used by proto-orthodox Christians to constrain the reading of the text was by putting it in a canon of writings, a collection of texts with varying perspectives which, once placed together, affected how each one would be read.
I’ll not spend much time discussing this strategy, as it is familiar enough to all of us here. It was familiar enough to early Christians as well, as early as Irenaeus, who points out in a famous passage in Book 3 of his Adversus Haereses that various groups of heretics go astray in their thinking because they choose to follow the teachings of just one Gospel or another, rather than recognizing that there are four Gospels whose teachings need to be read in light of one another. And so, he says, the Ebionites err by following only Matthew, those who separate Jesus from the Christ err by reading only Mark, the Marcionites err in accepting only Luke, and the Valentinians err in following only John.
For Irenaeus, and those like him who advocated a four-Gospel canon, all four of these books