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Muratorian Canon

A fragmentary list of NT books known at Rome about 200 is called after its discoverer, L.A. Muratori, who in 1740 published the document in Milan. The text is in Latin, but with sure signs that it is a translation, most likely from Greek. The sense is not always clear, and the list is broken off certainly at the beginning and probably at the close.

The fragment attests the books which were received in the Catholic Church in the West and were authorized to be read out in public. Books to be excluded from the canon are also identified. The four gospels are present, Mark at least by implication at the (lost) head of the list. Differences in the gospels are admitted, but declared to be of no importance since they derive ultimately from the “one guiding Spirit.” The Acts of the Apostles is from Luke, whose presence at most of the events he records is attested. Paul's letters are addressed to seven churches which, like the sevenfold church of the Apocalypse, signify the totality of Christendom. Letters sent to individuals (Philemon, 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus) deal with church discipline and are so to be accepted. On the other hand, spurious letters (like a letter to Laodiceans, recognized by Marcion) are to be refused. The Catholic epistles are accepted without discussion, as is the Wisdom of Solomon. The Apocalypse of John is recognized as acceptable, but the Apocalypse of Peter is not to be read in church. The Shepherd of Hermas may be read, but not in church worship, since it was of recent origin.

Attempts to identify an author of the canon-Hippolytus of Rome is the most promising candidate (so Zahn)-are not proven.

See R. McL. Wilson (ed.), New Testament Apocrypha, 1 (1963), pp. 42ff.

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