[Part 1], [Part 2], [Part 3], [Part 4], [Part 5], [Part 6], [Part 7], [Appendix]
Bruce Metzger is without doubt a great scholar and an authority when it comes to the NT. Christian missionary Sam Shamoun while responding to one of Shabir Ally's article paid the following tribute to Bruce Metzger:
"a world renowned authority on the manuscripts and transmission of the Greek New Testament (NT) text."
The above missionary admission is enough to show the importance Bruce Metzger holds and his authority when it comes to the NT.
After studying the writings of all the Apostolic Fathers viz., Clement of Rome, Ignatius, the Didache, fragments of Papias, Barnabas, Hermas of Rome, and the so-called 2 Clement, Bruce Metzger concludes:
"For early Jewish Christians the Bible consisted of the Old Testament and some Jewish apocryphal literature. Along with this written authority went traditions, chiefly oral, of sayings attributed to Jesus. On the other hand, authors who belonged to the 'Hellenistic Wing' of the Church refer more frequently to writings that later came to be included in the New Testament. At the same time, however, they very rarely regarded such documents as 'Scripture'.
Furthermore, there was as yet no conception of the duty of exact quotation from books that were not yet in the full sense canonical. Consequently, it is sometimes exceedingly difficult to ascertain which New Testament books were known to early Christian writers; our evidence does not become clear until the end of second century." [Metzger, The Canon Of The New Testament: Its Origin, Significance & Development pp. 72-73.]
For more details read: "Church Tradition & The Textual Integrity Of The Bible".
Consider the following admission as well:
"The original copies of the NT books have, of course, long since disappeared. This fact should not cause surprise. In the first place, they were written on papyrus, a very fragile and perishable material. In the second place, and probably of even more importance, the original copies of the NT books were not looked upon as scripture by those of the early Christian communities." [George Arthur Buttrick (Ed.), The Interpreter's Dictionary Of The Bible, Volume 1, pp. 599 (Under Text, NT).]
There we have it. The NT books were not looked upon as scripture by the early Christians.
Even though Bruce Metzger is perhaps one of the greatest NT textual critics, this does not mean that he is infallible and therefore correct in all he states. As we shall demonstrate, both Metzger and the Interpreter's Bible are wrong regarding the claim that the early Christians didn't view the books of the NT as inspired.
To support the claim that the early Christians did in fact view these writings as inspired we begin with the evidence of the NT itself:
"This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words." 1 Corinthians 2:13
"If anybody thinks he is a prophet or spiritually gifted, let him acknowledge that what I am writing to you is the Lord's command. If he ignores this, he himself will be ignored." 1 Corinthians 14:37-38
"since you are demanding proof that Christ is speaking through me. He is not weak in dealing with you, but is powerful among you". This is why I write these things when I am absent, that when I come I may not have to be harsh in my use of authoritythe authority the Lord gave me for building you up, not for tearing you down." 2 Corinthians 13:3, 10
"After this letter has been read to you, see that it is also read in the church of the Laodiceans and that you in turn read the letter from Laodicea." Colossians 4:16
"And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is at work in you who believe." 1 Thessalonians 2:13
"Finally, brothers, we instructed you how to live in order to please God, as in fact you are living. Now we ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more. For you know what instructions we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus." Therefore, he who rejects this instruction does not reject man but God, who gives you his Holy Spirit." 1 Thessalonians 4:1-2,8
"I charge you before the Lord to have this letter read to all the brothers." 1 Thessalonians 5:27
"But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers loved by the Lord, because from the beginning God chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth. He called you to this through our gospel, that you might share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught, whether by word of mouth or by letter from us." 2 Thessalonians 2:13-15 NASB
"If anyone does not obey our instruction in this letter, take special note of him. Do not associate with him, in order that he may feel ashamed." 2 Thessalonians 3:14
"and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work." 2 Timothy 3:15-17
Paul is not limiting inspiration to the OT text, since elsewhere to Timothy he includes Luke as part of the God-breathed revelation:
"For the Scripture says, 'Do not muzzle the ox while it is treading out the grain,' and 'The worker deserves his wages.'" 1 Timothy 5:18
Paul mentions Deuteronomy 25:4 along with Luke 10:7, classifying both on the same level of authority as inspired Scripture:
"Stay in that house, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house to house." Luke 10:7
The Apostle Peter claims:
"Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet's own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit." 2 Peter 1:20-21
The apostle Peter then proceeds to classify Paul's letter as scripture:
"Bear in mind that our Lord's patience means salvation, just as our brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction." 2 Peter 3:15-16
Peter then speaks of his own authority as coming from the Lord Jesus:
"Dear friends, this is now my second letter to you. I have written both of them as reminders to stimulate you to wholesome thinking. I want you to recall the words spoken in the past by the holy prophets and the command given by our Lord and Savior through your apostles." 2 Peter 3:1-2
"The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, who testifies to everything he saw - that is, the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ. Blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near." Revelation 1:1-3
"I, John, your brother and companion in the suffering and kingdom and patient endurance that are ours in Jesus, was on the island of Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. On the Lord's Day I was in the Spirit, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet, which said: 'Write on a scroll what you see and send it to the seven churches: to Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea'... 'Write, therefore, what you have seen, what is now and what will take place later.'" Revelation 1:9-11,19
"Then I heard a voice from heaven say, 'Write: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.' 'Yes,' says the Spirit, 'they will rest from their labor, for their deeds will follow them.'" Revelation 14:13
"Then the angel said to me, 'Write: "Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!"' And he added, 'These are the true words of God.'" Revelation 19:9
"He who was seated on the throne said, 'I am making everything new!' Then he said, 'Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.' He said to me: 'It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life. He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be my son.'" Revelation 21:5-7
"I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book. And if anyone takes words away from this book of prophecy, God will take away from him his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book." Revelation 22:18-19
We therefore find the NT writers personally affirming that they were writing divinely authoritative instructions which all the churches needed to read and follow. To reject their written instructions was to reject God himself. We also find that in certain instances the NT authors clearly affirm the divine inspiration of the writings of their colleagues. This in itself is sufficient to refute the claims of Metzger and the Interpreter's Bible.
We now proceed to analyze some of Metzger's claims regarding the Early Church's view of the NT books. The following citations are taken from Islamic Awareness' article found here.
Clement Of Rome
By way of summary, we see that Clement's Bible is the Old Testament, to which he refers repeatedly as Scripture, quoting it with more or less exactness. Clement also makes occasional reference to certain words of Jesus; though they are authoritative to him, he does not appear to enquire how their authenticity is ensured. In two of the three instances that he speaks of remembering 'the words' of Christ or of the Lord Jesus, it seems that he has a written record in mind, but he does not call it a 'gospel'. He knows several of Paul's epistles, and values them highly for their content; the same can be said of the Epistle of the Hebrews with which he is well acquainted. Although these writings obviously possess for Clement considerable significance, he never refers to them as authoritative 'Scripture'.
Metzger is clearly wrong regarding Clement's view of the NT for the latter says of Paul:
"Take up the epistle of the blessed apostle Paul. What did he write to you at the time when the Gospel first began to be preached? Truly, he wrote to you UNDER THE INSPIRATION OF THE SPIRIT." Clement of Rome 96 A.D. (David W. Bercot, A Dictionary of Early Christian Beliefs [Hendrickson Publishers, Massachusetts, 1998], p. 601)
Clement explicitly testifies that Paul was writing under inspiration.
It seems that Metzger falsely assumes that unless a Father calls a NT book "Scripture" then the Father does not believe that it is Scripture. Yet the preceding citation shows that this is clearly wrong. More will be said about this later.
Furthermore, Metzger is essentially arguing from silence. Just because a Father doesn't use the appellation "Scripture" does not mean that the Father in question didn't regard the NT books as such. The fact that a particular Father would quote an NT book actually suggests that the Father accepted its divine inspiration. This is based on the fact that certain NT books like 1 Corinthians and 1 Thessalonians testify to their own inspiration. This being the case, for a Father to quote such books presumes that the Father is in agreement with the book's own testimony about itself.
Continuing further, Metzger writes:
Ignatius Of Antioch
The upshot of all this is that the primary authority for Ignatius was the apostolic preaching about the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, though it made little difference to him whether it was oral or written. He certainly knew a collection of Paul's epistles, including (in the order of frequency of his use of them) 1 Corinthians, Ephesians, Romans, Galatians, Philippians, Colossians, and 1 Thessalonians. It is probable that he knew the Gospels according to Matthew and John, and perhaps also Luke. There is no evidence that he regarded any of these Gospels or Epistles as 'Scripture'.
Let us quote Metzger in context and see what in fact was Ignatius' position regarding the books of the New Testament:
"Throughout his epistles Ignatius frequently uses language that echoes characteristic phrases found in the Pauline writings. Apparently struck by Paul's depreciating reference to himself as 'the offscouring (peripsema) of all things' (I Cor. iv. 13), Ignatius twice employs it with reference to himself in his Epistle to the Ephesians (viii. I; xviii. I). He uses Paul's expression 'lest I be found a castaway' (I Cor. ix. 27) in Trall. xii. 3, and in Rom. v. I he incorporates almost verbatim Paul' phrase from I Cor. iv. 4, 'but not by this am I justified'. Again and again he makes use of phrases drawn from Paul's vivid description of himself when writing to the Corinthians: 'Last of all, as to one untimely born, he [Christ] appeared to me. For I am the least of the apostles, unfit to be called an apostle because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am' (I Cor. xv. 8-10). These words obviously made such an impression on Ignatius that he includes echoes from the passage in five of his letters:
I am unworthy, being the very least of them and untimely birth; but I have obtained mercy to be someone (Rom. ix. I).
I who am the very least of the faithful (Eph. xxi. 2).
I am not worthy to be called a member [of the church in Syria], being the very least of them (Trall. xiii. I).
I am not worthy to be called a member (Magn. iv. I).
I am not worthy to belong to it [the church], being the very least of them. But by God' will I have been judged worthy, not because of the witness of my own conscience, but by God's grace (Smyrn. xi. I).
In addition to I Corinthians, parallels in phraseology make it probable that Ignatius was acquainted also with several other Pauline Epistles, including Romans, Ephesians, and Philippians. It is probable that he had knowledge of Hebrews and I Peter, though echoes from these are rather faint."
As for the Synoptic Gospels, there are much closer parallels in Ignatius with Mark than with Mark or Luke. In an elaborate statement of Christian doctrine at the opening of his Epistle to the Smrynaeans, Ignatius states that Jesus 'was baptized by John so that all righteousness might be fulfilled by him' (i. I). It is significant that of the Evangelists it is Matthew alone who states that, in order to persuade John to baptize him, Jesus urged that 'thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness (Matt. iii. 15). Later in the same epistle, when speaking of a difficult and mysterious subject (the judgement of angels who do not believe in Christ's blood), Ignatius states bluntly, 'He who receives this, let him receive it' (ho choron choreito, vi. I). One is reminded of Jesus' words reported by Matthew in another context, 'He who is able to receive this, let him receive it' (ho dunamenos chorein choreito, Matt. xix. I2).
These reminiscences as well as several instances of what seem to be echoes of Matthew in Ignatius (e.g. Polyc. ii. 2 and Matt. x. 16; Eph. v. 2 and Matt. xviii. I9, 20), have led most scholars to conclude that Ignatius was acquainted either with Matthew or a document very closely akin to it."
In contrast to the paucity of allusions to the Synoptic Gospels, Ignatius' epistles not infrequently present echoes of the fourth Gospel. The following are several of the more significant instances.
(I) To the Magnesians (vii. 2) Ignatius speaks concerning God: '[He] manifested himself through Jesus Christ his Son, who is his word that proceeded from silence, who in all respects was well-pleasing to him that sent him'. Here we have two rather obvious allusions to the Johannine Gospel (i. I and viii. 28-29).
(2) To the Philadelphians (vii. I) he writes: 'Even though certain persons desired to deceive me after the flesh, yet the spirit [i.e. Ignatius' own spirit] is not deceived, for it is from God. For it knows whence it comes and wither it goes' (pothen erchetai kai pou hupagei). The same five Greek words occur in John iii. 8 with regard to the divine Spirit.
(3) Ignatius writes to the Romans (vii. 2) that 'the prince of this age (ho archon tou aionos) desires to take me captive, and to corrupt my mind which is toward God'. This reminds one of repeated references in the Fourth Gospel (xii. 3I; xiv. 30; xvi. II) to 'the prince of this world' (ho archon tou kosmou). A few sentences later Ignatius refers to the 'living water' that speaks within him, saying, 'Come to the Father' (cf. John iv. I0; vii. vii. 38). In the next line he declares: 'I have no desire for corruptible food or for the delight of this life. I desire the "bread of God", which is the flesh of Christ, "who was the seed of David", and for my drink I desire his blood, which is love incorruptible.' Here we find phrases like those in John vi. 33 and vii. 42, as well as other echoes of Johannine theology.
(4) To the Philadelphians (ix. I) he makes use of the metaphor of Christ as the door, emphasizing the Johannine doctrine of pre-incarnate activity of the Logos: 'He [the high priest] is the door of the Father, through which enter Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and the Prophets and the Apostles and the Church. All these things combine in the unity of God.' Here it is remarkable how many themes that occur in the Fourth Gospel seem to be amalgamated in Ignatius' thinking (cf. John x. 7, 9; xiv. 6; viii. 30-59; xii. 20-3).
Such instances of parallels, sometimes of words and sometimes of ideas, show that Ignatius was well acquainted with Johannine theology and suggest that he may have gained this familiarity from having read the Fourth Gospel. The absence of any explicit quotation from this Gospel is quite in harmony with what was mentioned earlier regarding Ignatius' literary style and the circumstances under which he was writing.
Ignatius uses the introductory formula 'It is written' (gegraptai) ONLY THREE TIMES, all of them referring to the Old Testament - two from the book of Proverbs (Magn. xii. I and Eph. v. 3; the latter may be based upon I Peter v. 5), and the other in connection with a highly condensed and curiously ambiguous report of a debate that he had, apparently with Juidaizing Christians at Philadelphia (Philad. viii. 2-ix. I). In that debate his opponents declared (according to the interpretation adopted by most commentators on the passage) that if they did not find it in the 'archives' (archeiois, here referring to the Old Testament), they did not believe it in the Gospel (euangelion). When he retorted that the Scripture in fact supported hum ('But it is written', gegraptai), they answered, 'That is just the question'- in other words, they questioned the messianic interpretation that he placed on proof-texts drawn from the Old Testament 'archives'.
... Here the archives (archeia) and the Gospel (to euangelion) are opposed as the Old Testament and THE NEW, and to those who wanted proof from the former Ignatius replies that the foundation of Christian faith IS NOT THE OLD TESTAMENT BUT JESUS CHRIST, who is greater than the Old Testament worthies." (Metzger, The Canon of the New Testament Its Origin, Development, and Significance [Clarendon Press, Oxford 1997], pp. 44-48; bold and capital emphasis ours)
Ignatius' familiarity and use of NT phraseology and words coupled with his infrequent use of the phrase "it is written" shows quite clearly that to Ignatius the NT books held divine authority, contrary to Metzger's own conclusion. This can also be seen from the fact that Metzger himself admits that Ignatius contrasts the Gospel-New Testament with the Archives-Old Testament and states that the New is greater than the Old.
By way of summary, we can see from Didache that itinerant apostles and Prophets still find an important place in the life of the Church, but this authority is declining. Their activity is surrounded by all sorts of precautions and rests ultimately on the authority of the traditional teaching deriving from the Lord, whose manner they must exhibit: 'Not everyone who speaks in a spirit is a prophet, except he have the ways of the Lord. By their ways, then, the false prophet and the true prophet shall be distinguished' (xi. 8). The author refers to the gospel, but he cites only words of Jesus. This 'gospel', which is without doubt the Gospel according to Matthew, is not regarded as a necessary source from which the words of the Lord, with indispensable warrants, come to the faithful, but quite simply as a convenient collection of these words.
Let us see if Metzger's conclusion is supported from the context of Metzger's section:
"Of the sixteen brief chapters, chaps. i-vi describe the Way of Life and the Way of Death, while chaps. vii-xv contain instructions on baptism, fasting, prayer, the Eucharist, and how to treat prophets, bishops, and deacons. Chap. xvi. is a prophecy of the Antichrist and the Second Coming of Christ . The authority for these teachings, as suggested by the subtitle, is none other than Jesus through the mediation of the apostles. The word apostles, however, does not occur in the book itself, except at xi. 3-6 where it refers, not to the Twelve or Paul, but to itinerant evangelists. The title, therefore, seems to have been added sometime after the document was drawn up.
Among written sources used by the author, we find two quotations from the Old Testament (xiv. 13 from Mal. i. 11, 14, and from xvi. 7 from Zech. xiv. 5), two from the New Testament (both from Matthew), and one probably from some unknown apocryphal book (i. 6, It has been said, "Let your alms sweat into your hands until you know to whom you are giving"). The two quotations from Matthew are, Do not pray as the hypocrites, but as THE LORD COMMANDED IN HIS GOSPEL, pray thus: "Our Father who art in heaven... for thine is the power and glory forever" (viii. 2, from Matt. vi. 5 ff.), and Let no one eat or drink of your eucharist except those who have been baptised in the name of the Lord; for to this also THE SAYING OF THE LORD is applicable, "Do not give that which is holy to the dogs" (ix. 5, Matt. vii. 6).
Apart from such explicit quotations, the Didache also contains three separate references to what the Lord commanded in the Gospel (xi. 3; xv. 3 and 4), as well as echoes from several other New Testament books. An analysis of these reminiscences shows that the Gospel according to Matthew was the chief source of the author's knowledge of the teaching of Jesus, but alongside this written gospel he was familiar also with phrases from oral tradition.
In the eucharistic prayers (chaps. ix-x) there seem to be faint echoes of the eucharistic passages of the Fourth Gospel (vi. 25-28) and of Jesus' prayer in John xvii, but they are not sufficiently precise as to assure us that the author had read a copy of the Gospel according to John. At most they reflect a tradition common to him and the Fourth Evangelist." (Metzger, pp. 50-51; bold and capital emphasis ours)
Seeing that the Didache has the same number of citations from both the Old and New Testaments implies that the Didache regarded the New Testament books on the same level of the Old Testament books. Furthermore, that the Didache refers to what the Lord commanded in his Gospel and then cites Matthew's Gospel as its source affirms that Matthew was regarded as an accurate and authoritative record of the Gospel of Jesus Christ which had been passed on to his followers.
Papias Of Heirapolis
By way of summary, Papias stands as a kind of bridge between the oral and written stages in the transmission of the gospel tradition. Although he professes to have a marked preference for the oral tradition, one nevertheless sees at work the causes that, more and more, would lead to the rejection of that form of tradition in favour of written gospels. On the whole, therefore, the testimony of Papias concerning the development of the canon of the New Testament is significant chiefly in reflecting the usage of the community in which devotion to oral tradition hindered the development of a clear idea of canonicity.
Let us see why Papias prefers the oral tradition:
"Among the first of those to show some interest in early Christian writings as well as in oral traditions was Papias, bishop of Hierapolis in Phrygia, a city in which a Christian church had been established through the efforts of Epaphras, one of the apostle Paul's fellow workers (Col. iv. 12-13). Next to nothing is known of Papias' life beyond the comment of Irenaeus (Ad. Haer. v. xxxiii. 3-4) that he was ' a man of long ago' (archaios aner) who had heard the apostle John preach and was also a friend of Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna. From this it appears that Papias must have lived from about A.D. 70 to about 140.
... Papias was eager to learn details of the life of Christ from living tradition, transmitted by the disciples of the Lord. After stating that he was not so much concerned with the quantity of the tradition he could obtain but with its QUALITY AS CORRESPONDING TO THE TRUTH, he continues:
If ever anyone came who had been a follower of the presbyters I inquired into the words of the presbyters, what Andrew or Peter or Philip or Thomas or James or John or Matthew or any other of the Lord's disciples had said, and what Aristion and the presbyter John, the Lord's disciples, were saying. For I did not think that information from books would help me so much as the utterances of a living and surviving voice.
From this quotation it is clear that the sayings of the Lord which Papias undertook to explain were drawn not only from written documents but also from oral tradition. His information of what Andrew, Peter, Philip, Thomas, James, John, and Matthew had said, or what Aristion and the presbyter John were saying must have been Palestinian Christians who had emigrated to Asia Minor after the fall of Jerusalem in 70. They obviously enjoyed considerable prestige from the fact that they had lived in the same country with Jesus, and so were considered bearers of a tradition that was particularly authentic and precious. Papias thus recognized two sources of Christian tradition: one was conveyed by word of mouth, the other was embodied in written gospels. That he preferred the former was due more to psychological than dogmatic reasons; later in the second century tastes would begin to shift from oral to written sources."
Besides such oral traditions, which Papias delighted to collect, he also included in his Expositions two brief accounts about the composition of Mark and Matthew. The notice he gives to the second is very brief, merely one sentence: 'Matthew composed the sayings (or oracles, ta logia) in a Hebrew dialect, and each one interpreted (or, translated) them as best he could.'
This enigmatic account refers, it is generally supposed, to one of the sources of the present Gospel according to Matthew, and may imply that the collections of the sayings of Christ was attributed to Matthew because, in view of his earlier profession as tax collector, one could be sure that he knew how to write. The reference to Matthew's composition in 'a (or, the) Hebrew dialect' (Hebraidi dialekto) is ordinarily taken to mean a Semitic language, either Hebrew itself or an Aramaic dialect. The suggestion that the expression should be understood merely as an account in Greek written in a Hebraic literary style does not take seriously the concluding reference to the difficulty one experienced in translating or interpreting the document.
The idea of improvised translations made from a Semitic original may have arisen when it became necessary to explain the divergences that would become apparent when one compared the Gospel according to Matthew, the Gospel according to the Hebrews, and other Aramaic or Greek gospels that were related. We can detect here an apologetic intention in Papias' comment concerning Matthew's work.
Such apologetic interest is still more prominent in his comments on Markshowing that criticisms directed against Mark were more pointed than those directed against Matthew. According to Papias, again as quoted by Eusebius (Hist. eccl. III. xxxix. 15),
The presbyter used to say this: Mark, having become Peter's interpreter (hermeneutes, perhaps 'spokesman' or 'secretary') wrote down ACCURATELY all that he remembered [of Peter's preaching] without, however, recording in order (taxei) the things said or done by the Lord. For he neither heard the Lord nor followed him, but afterwards, as I have said, [heard and followed] Peter, who adapted his discourse to the needs (pros tas chreias) [of his hearers], but not making, as it were, an arrangement (suntaxin) of the Lord's sayings, so that Mark did nothing wrong in thus writing down single points as he remembered them. For he was careful of one thing - to omit NOTHING of what he had heard or to FALSIFY anything in them.
From this account we can detect that three criticisms been raised against Mark's Gospel: (a) Mark had not heard Jesus, nor had he followed him. (b) What he wrote lacked order, either rhetorical or chronological. (c) His Gospel is incomplete.
In reply to these criticisms, Papias states that the guaranty of the Gospel is furnished by Peter, and that the conditions under which it was written explain why it is without perfect order and presents some gaps - which are a kind of testimony TO MARK'S HONESTY in taking down all that Peter was accustomed to preach.
Other scattered evidence preserved by Eusebius, Jerome, Philip of Side as well as several later Fathers, indicates that Papias knew the Fourth Gospel, I Peter, I John, and the Apocalypse. As for the Gospel according to Luke and the Epistles of Paul, we hear nothing in the extracts that have happened to survive. (Metzger, pp. 51-55; bold and capital emphasis ours)
In light of the fact that Papias knew the eye and ear witnesses of Jesus Christ, it is little wonder that he preferred oral traditions. Second, if Metzger's assertion regarding the apologetic nature of Papias' statements in relation to Matthew and Mark is correct, this means that the latter wholeheartedly accepted the divine status and reliability of these books. Otherwise, there would have been no reason for Papias to defend these two books if he did not believe they were divinely authoritative.
Third, Papias is an early witness to the authorship of the Gospels. Papias affirms that Matthew wrote down the sayings of Jesus which others translated, while Mark recorded Peter's recollection of the life of Christ. This implies that the NT books are reliable eyewitness accounts on the life of Jesus, refuting the criticisms leveled against the veracity of these books by liberals and Muslims alike.
By way of summary, one can see that for Barnabas the Scriptures are what we call the Old Testament, including several books outside the Hebrew canon. Most of his contacts with the Synoptic traditions involve simple sentences that might well have been known to a Christian of that time from oral tradition. As against the single instance of his using the formula, 'it is written', in introducing the statement, 'Many are called, but few are chosen', must be placed his virtual neglect of the New Testament. If, on the other hand, he wrote shortly before or after 130, the focus of his subject matter would not make it necessary to do much quoting from New Testament books - if indeed he knew many of them. In either case he provides no evidence for the development of the New Testament canon.
Here is the part of Metzger that Islamic Awareness "forgot" to include:
"In his frequent quotations from the Old Testament, Barnabas is fairly exact in citing well-known contexts belonging to the Psalter and to the book of Isaiah, but elsewhere he appears to trust memory, and not to concern himself greatly about the precise words of his author. There are nearly one hundred instances that involve formulas of quotation, most of which are general and vague; for example, 'Scripture says', 'it is written', 'the prophet says', 'the Lord (or God) says (or said)', 'it (or he) says'." Barnabas exhorts his readers to take heed 'lest haply we be found, as IT IS WRITTEN (hos gegraptai), "many are called, but few are chosen"'. While this looks like very much like a quotation from Matthew (xxii. 14), it is also possible, as some think, that Barnabas and Matthew are drawing upon a common source for the saying, whose proverbial character seems proved by its having been added to Matt xx. 16 in many manuscripts."
(3) Barnabas knows also that Jesus 'came not to call the righteous but sinners (v. 9), a statement that occurs verbatim in Matthew (ix. 13) and in Mark (ii. 7).
... Among several reminiscences that could be mentioned, reference may be made to the word podere in Barnabas' description of Jesus when he will come on the day of judgment wearing a scarlet robe 'down to the feet' (vii. 9). The substantival use of this word, found in the New Testament only in Rev. i. 13 in the description of the heavenly Christ, suggests that Barnabas may have been influenced by the Apocalypse." (Metzger, pp. 57-58; bold and capital emphasis ours)
The fact that Barnabas uses the phrase "it is written" when quoting Matthew 22:14 affirms that Barnabas viewed Matthew's Gospel as Scripture. That Barnabas quotes a teaching of Jesus which appears in both Matthew and Mark, and uses a word that only appears in Revelation, presumes that Barnabas had copies of the Gospel(s) and Revelation. This being the case it is unwarranted to assume, as some scholars do, that Barnabas wasn't quoting from Matthew 22:14 but a common source that was also used by Matthew.
Polycarp Of Smyrna
By way of summary, the short Epistle of Polycarp contains proportionately far more allusions to the writings of the New Testament than are present in any other of the Apostolic Fathers. He certainly had a collection of at least eight Pauline Epistles (including two of the Pastorals), and was acquainted as well with Hebrews, 1 Peter, and 1 John. As for the Gospels, he cites as sayings of the Lord phrases that we find in Matthew and Luke. With one exception, none of Polycarp's many allusions is cited as Scripture - and that exception, as we have seen, is held by some to have been mistakenly attributed to the Old Testament. At the same time Polycarp's mind is not only saturated with ideas and phrases derived from a considerable number of writings that later came to be regarded as New Testament Scriptures, but he also displays latent respect for these apostolic documents as possessing an authority lacking in other writings. Polycarp, as Grant remarks, 'clearly differentiates the apostolic age from his own time and, presumably for this reason, does not use the letters of Ignatius as authoritiesMeven though they "contain faith, endurance, and all the edification which pertains to our Lord" (xiii. 2)'.
Let us fill in some of the details that Saifullah and staff conveniently omitted:
"Despite the proximity in time between Ignatius and Polycarp, as well as the obvious affinity of their spirits in Christian fortitude, one recognizes in Polycarp a temperament much less oriented to ecclesiastical polity and possessing a much wider acquaintance with the New Testament. Proportionate to the length of what they wrote, Polycarp has two or three times more quotations and reminiscences from the New Testament than does Ignatius; of 112 Biblical reminiscences, about one hundred are from the New Testament with only a dozen from the Old Testament. Quotations that enable us to gain a rather precise idea of the authority that Polycarp recognized in them include the following.
The primary authorities which he identifies as spiritual norms for the Christian life are three in number:
So then 'let us serve him [Christ] with fear and all reverence', as he himself commanded us, as did the apostles, who preached the gospel to us, and the prophets, who proclaimed beforehand the coming of our Lord (vi. 3).
Here we can see a change of perspective; the center of gravity is displaced. In place of the authority of the prophets stands the authority of the gospel, and it is from the authority of the gospel and because they announced it that the authority of the prophets is derived. As for the apostles, they appear as intermediaries between the gospel of the Lord and the believers.
From another passage in his epistle we see that Polycarp assumes that a body of teaching, oral or written and similar to the Sermon on the Mount, was familiar to the Philippian church:
Remember what the Lord taught when he said, 'Do not judge, that you may not be judged; forgive and you will be forgiven; be merciful, that you may obtain mercy; the measure you give will be the measure you get'; and 'Blessed are the poor, and those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of God' (ii. 3).
Here one finds a combination of Matthew vii. 1-2 and Luke vi. 36-8, but there also some elements that are not present in the canonical Gospels. The second part of the passage is a combination of two of Jesus' beatitudes (Matt. v. 3 and 10). In both cases the words are cited as the words of Jesus and not as Scripture.
In another case the citation is textual:
Let us persevere in fasting, and beseech the all-seeing God 'not to lead us into temptation', even as the Lord said, 'The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak' (vii. 2).
This last sentence is drawn from Matt. xxvi. 41 and is expressly presented as a word of the Lord. It is significant also that, in the preceding phrase, Polycarp reproduces a petition from the Lord's Prayer without mentioning its origin. The 'word of the Lord' supplies authority by its own content and because it comes from the Lord.
Among other New Testament writings to which Polycarp alludes, we find that he is acquainted with Romans, I Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, 2 Thessalonians, I Timothy, and 2 Timothy. The absence of reminiscences from 2 Corinthians, Colossians, I Thessalonians, Titus, and Philemon can perhaps be considered fortuitous.
As for other New Testament epistles, Polycarp almost certainly knows the Epistle to the Hebrews; he calls Christ ' the eternal high priest' (xii. 2; cf. Heb. vi. 20; vii. 3) and seems to echo Heb. Xii. 28 ('let us serve him with fear and all reverence', vi. 3). In his warning against heresy (vii. I) the ringing declaration, 'Everyone who does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is an antichrist', is obviously derived from I John iv. 2-3. Many allusions to I Peter-which he must have known practically by heart-occur throughout his epistle.
How far did Polycarp consider and other similar statements made by the apostles to be 'Scripture'? It is possible that he does so on one occasion when he remarks, 'As it is said in these Scriptures, "Be ye angry and sin not" and "Let not the sun go down upon your wrath"' (xxii. I). The former of these two quotations comes from Ps. iv. 5, and both occur together in Eph. iv. 26-an epistle which he knows and alludes to several times elsewhere. The words 'these Scriptures' and the linking word 'and' seem to imply that Polycarp regards himself as making two separate quotations, but it is also possible that the collocation of the two passages is due to quoting both from Ephesians. In either case he calls Ephesians 'Scripture'. Since, however, this is the only place where he designates as 'Scripture' a quotation from the New Testament, some have argued that Polycarp, quoting from memory, mistakenly attributes both passages to the Old Testament. It is difficult to decide firmly among these several ways of understanding Polycarp's words, but the first mentioned has the advantage of taking his statement IN ITS NATURAL SENSE.
... At the same time Polycarp's mind is not only saturated with ideas and phrases derived from a considerable number of writings that later came to be regarded as New Testament Scriptures, but he also displays latent respect for these apostolic documents as possessing AN AUTHORITY LACKING IN OTHER WRITINGS. Polycarp, as Grant remarks, 'CLEARLY DIFFERENTIATES THE APOSTOLIC AGE FROM HIS OWN TIME and, presumably for this reason, does not use the letters of Ignatius as authoritieseven though they "contain faith, endurance, and all the edification which pertains to our Lord" (xiii. 2)'." (Metzger, pp. 60-63)
Polycarp clearly believes that the NT books contain divine authority, going so far as calling Paul's Epistle Scripture. Furthermore, that Polycarp could cite words from the Lord Jesus without identifying his sources presumes that the readers were familiar with these sources. This shows how rapidly these Gospel materials spread and was accepted.
Hermas Of Rome
By way of summary, it is obvious that Hermas was not given to making quotations from literature; in fact, the only actual book anywhere named and quoted in the Shepherd (Vis. ii. 3) is an obscure Jewish apocalypse known as the book of Eldad and Modat. Despite reminiscences from Matthew, Ephesians, and James, Hermas makes no comment that would lead us to think that he regarded them as canonical Scripture. From the testimony contained in the Shepherd, it can in any case be observed how uneven during the course of the second century was the development of the idea of the canon.
Metzger again is arguing from silence since nothing in Hermas leads us to conclude that he did not view these writings as canonical. The fact is Hermas was very familiar with some of the NT books as the following quotes from Metzger shows:
"Hermas makes no definite quote FROM EITHER OLD OR NEW TESTAMENT. At the same time, however, here and there one detects echoes of Scriptural words and ideas, which the author handles with a light touch, working them into new combinations. He seems to have known the Gospel according to John and at last [sic] one of the Synoptic Gospels, as well as the Epistle to the Ephesians and the Epistle to James, as the following citations will show. In Sim. ix. I2, the declaration that one enters the kingdom of God only by receiving the Name of the Son of God seems to be a reminiscence of John iii. I8. In Sim. ix. 20, Hermas, thinking of the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares, declares that those involved in much business are like thorns, and are choked by their business transactions: 'Such persons', he concludes, 'will have difficulty in entering the kingdom of God.' But though the rich have difficulty entering the kingdom (cf. Matt. xix. 23ff.), the childlike will live free from wickedness in a state of innocence and will, 'without doubt, dwell in the kingdom of God' (Sim. ix. 29ff.).
It is likely that Eph. iv. 3-6, which enjoins peace and unity in one body and one Spirit, supplied Hermas with ideas concerning the ideal state for the members of the Church. In Sim. ix. 13 he twice alludes to believers as those who become or possess 'one spirit and one body'. In Sim. ix. 17 Hermas declares that those who have been baptized 'have one understanding and one mind, and their faith became one and their love one', and in ix. 18 he looks forward to the time, when the Church, having been purified, will become 'one body, of one mind, of one understanding, of one faith, of one love.'
The coincidence of Hermas with expressions in the Epistle of James are exceedingly numerous, and WHOLE SECTIONS of the Shepherd seem to have been framed with evident recollection of that Epistle (for example, Vis. iii. 9; Mand. ii. 9; Sim. v. 4). The word dipsuchos ('double-minded'), which in the New Testament occurs only in James (i. 8 and iv. 8) and not in the Septuagint or anywhere else in secular Greek, seems to have caught Hermas' fancy; he uses it 19 times, as well as the cognate verb dipsuchein 20 times, and the substantive dipsuchia 16 times." (Metzger, pp. 65-67; bold and capital emphasis ours)
It would be absurd to think that since Hermas doesn't quote directly from the Old Testament implies that he didn't believe it was inspired; it would also be absurd to assume this to be the case with Hermas' view of the New Testament. The fact that Hermas is familiar with the words and phraseology of the NT presumes that Hermas held a very high view of the NT documents.
The So-Called Second Epistle Of Clement
By way of recapitulation, the unknown author of 2 Clement certainly knew and used Matthew and Luke, 1 Corinthians and Ephesians. There is no trace of the Johannine Gospel or Epistles, or of the Book of Acts. And one can not say more than that he may have known Hebrews, James, and 1 Peter. Of the eleven times he cites words of Jesus, five are not to be found in the canonical Gospels. The presence of these latter, as well as the citation in xi. 2-4 of an apocryphal book of the Old Testament, introduced as 'the prophetic word', shows that our homilist's quotations of divinely authoritative words are not controlled by any strict canonical idea, even in relation to Old Testament writings.
Here again is something from Metzger that Saifullah and company did not include:
"There remains one other citation of Jesus' words that, unlike those so far examined, is identified as 'Scripture'. Immediately after quoting a passage from the Old Testament (Isa. liv. 1), the author continues, 'Another Scripture also says (kai hetera de graphe legei), "I came not to call the righteous, but sinners"' (ii. 4). Since the parallelism with Matt. ix. 13 and Mark ii. 17 is exact, the citation seems to show that the author of 2 Clement regarded the Gospel according to Matthew (which was more widely used in the early Church than Mark) as Scripture, on a par with Isaiah.
... In developing an allegorical understanding of the pre-existence of the Church, he relies upon 'the books and the apostles' (ta Biblia kai hoi apostoloi). What did our author mean by these two terms taken in tandem? Although it is unlikely that he had given much reflection to the matter, by the term 'the books' he would undoubtedly have meant the Old Testament, for he has just finished quoting Jer. vii. 11 and Gen. i. 27. By the term 'the apostles', though in the context he has Eph. i. 22-23 specifically in mind, he probably would have included other Christian books that are taken as co-ordinate with the Jewish Scriptures. At the same time, however, it is significant that he does not venture to include the apostolic documents under the rubric, 'the books', i.e. his Bible. (Metzger, p. 71; bold and capital emphasis ours)
We see that 2 Clement calls Matthew Scripture and groups both the Hebrew Bible and the apostolic writings together, implying that to 2 Clement both held equal authority.
This concludes the first part of this section. In the following section we will quote the early Church fathers's views of the New Testament.
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