[Part 1], [Part 2], [Part 3], [Part 4], [Part 5], [Part 6], [Part 7], [Part 8], [Appendix]

Rebuttal to Johnny Bravo's Article

"Christian Scholars refuting the status of the NT as an inspired scripture"

(Part 9)

The Biblical and Patristic Witness to the NT Canon (II)

We now turn our attention to the early lists of the NT books. These lists, for the most part, can be found in Appendix IV of Bruce Metzger's The Canon Of The New Testament: Its Origin, Significance & Development (1997, Clarendon Press, Oxford).

1. Muratorian Fragment (170 AD.)

The Muratorian Fragment is the oldest known list of New Testament books. It was discovered in 1740 by Ludovico Antonio Muratori in the Ambrosian Library in Milan, in a seventh century manuscript. The beginning of the MS is missing. Many scholars believe that the list dates approximately to 170 AD due to the references to the episcopate of Pius I of Rome (d. 157 AD.) as being recent. The present list begins with Luke being described as the third book in the canon. This presupposes the inclusion of two additional books, namely Matthew and Mark.

The Catholic Encyclopedia writes:

Also called the Muratorian Fragment, after the name of the discoverer and first editor, L. A. Muratori (in the "Antiquitates italicae", III, Milan, 1740, 851 sq.), the oldest known canon or list of books of the New Testament. The manuscript containing the canon originally belonged to Bobbio and is now in the Bibliotheca Ambrosiana at Milan (Cod. J 101 sup.). Written in the eighth century, it plainly shows the uncultured Latin of that time. The fragment is of the highest importance for the history of the Biblical canon. It was written in Rome itself or in its environs about 180 - 200; probably the original was in Greek, from which it was translated into Latin. This Latin text is preserved solely in the manuscript of the Ambrosiana. A few sentences of the Muratorian Canon are preserved in some other manuscripts, especially in codices of St. Paul's Epistles in Monte Cassino. The canon consists of no mere list of the Scriptures, but of a survey, which supplies at the same time historical and other information regarding each book. The beginning is missing; the preserved text begins with the last line concerning the second Gospel and the notices, preserved entire, concerning the third and fourth Gospels. Then there are mentioned: The Acts, St. Paul's Epistles (including those to Philemon, Titus and Timothy; the spurious ones to the Laodiceans and Alexandrians are rejected); furthermore, the Epistle of St. Jude and two Epistles of St. John; among the Scriptures which "in catholica habentur", are cited the "Sapientia ab amicis Salomonis in honorem ipsius scripta", as well as the Apocalypses of St. John and St. Peter, but with the remark that some will not allow the latter to be read in the church. Then mention is made of the Pastor of Hermas, which may be read anywhere but not in the divine service; and, finally, there are rejected false Scriptures, which were used by heretics. In consequence of the barbarous Latin there is no complete understanding of the correct meaning of some of the sentences. As to the author, many conjectures were made (Papias, Hegesippus, Caius of Rome, Hippolytus of Rome, Rhodon, Melito of Sardis were proposed); but no well founded hypothesis has been adduced up to the present. (Source)

The English text is taken from Metzger.

... at which nevertheless he was present, and so he placed them in his narrative. The third book of the Gospel is that according to Luke. Luke, the well-known physician, after the ascension of Christ, whom Paul had taken with him as one zealous for the law, composed it in his own name, according to the general belief. Yet he himself had not seen the Lord in the flesh; and therefore, as he was able to ascertain events, so indeed he begins to tell the story from the birth of John. The fourth of the Gospels is that of John, one of the disciples. To his fellow disciples and bishops, who had been urging him to write, he said, Fast with me from today to three days, and what will be revealed to each one let us tell it to one another. In the same night it was revealed to Andrew, one of the apostles, that John should write down all things in his own name while all of them should review it. And so, though various elements may be taught in the individual books of the Gospels, nevertheless this makes no difference to the faith of believers, since by the one sovereign Spirit all things have been declared in all the Gospels: concerning the nativity, concerning the passion, concerning the resurrection, concerning life with his disciples, and concerning his twofold coming; the first in lowliness when he was despised, which has taken place, the second glorious in royal power, which is still in the future. What marvel is it then, if John so consistently mentions these particular points also in his epistles, saying about himself, What we have seen with our eyes and heard with our ears and our hands have handled, these things we have written to you? For in this way he professes himself to be not only an eye-witness and hearer, but also a writer of all the marvelous deeds of the Lord, in their order. Moreover, the acts of all the apostles were written in one book. For "Most excellent Theophilus" Luke compiled the individual events that took place in his presence, as he plainly shows by omitting the martyrdom of Peter as well as the departure of Paul from the city when he journeyed to Spain. As for the epistles of Paul, they themselves make clear to those desiring to understand, which ones they are, from what place, or for what reason they were sent. First of all, to the Corinthians, prohibiting their heretical schisms; next, to the Galatians, against circumcision; then to the Romans he wrote at length, explaining the plan of the Scriptures, and also that Christ is their principle. It is necessary for us to discuss these one by one, since the blessed apostle Paul himself, following the example of his predecessor John, writes by name to only seven churches in the following sequence: To the Corinthians first, to the Ephesians second, to the Philippians third, to the Colossians fourth, to the Galatians fifth, to the Thessalonians sixth, to the Romans seventh. It is true that he writes once more to the Corinthians and to the Thessalonians for the sake of admonition, yet it is clearly recognizable that there is one Church spread throughout the whole extent of the earth. For John also in the Apocalypse, though he writes to seven churches, nevertheless speaks to all. Paul also wrote out of affection and love one to Philemon, one to Titus, and two to Timothy; and these are held sacred in the esteem of the Church catholic for the regulation of ecclesiastical discipline. There is current also an epistle to the Laodiceans, and another to the Alexandrians, both forged in Paul's name to further the heresy of Marcion, and several others which cannot be received into the catholic Church. For it is not fitting that gall be mixed with honey. Moreover, the epistle of Jude and two bearing the name of John are counted in the catholic Church; and the book of Wisdom, written by the friends of Solomon in his honour. We receive only the apocalypses of John and Peter, though some of us are not willing that the latter be read in church. But Hermas wrote "The Shepherd" very recently, in our times, in the city of Rome, while bishop Pius, his brother, was occupying the chair of the church of the city of Rome. And therefore it ought indeed to be read; but it cannot be read publicly to the people in church either among the Prophets, whose number is complete, or among the Apostles, for it is after their time. But we accept nothing whatever of Arsinous or Valentinus or Miltiades, who also composed a new book of psalms for Marcion, together with Basilides, the Asian founder of the Cataphrygians... (Source; see also this article)


Here is a document dating approximately A.D. 170 that lists 22 NT books as having already received canonical status by the Church at large!

What makes this list interesting is that it provides evidence for the criteria being used to determine canonical books from uncanonical ones. As NT textual critic and professor Bart D. Ehrman, one of the favorite liberal critics which Muslims love to quote (in fact the one whom Bravo himself quoted throughout his paper), states in reference to the criteria presupposed by the Muratorian canon:

What are the criteria? As it turns out, the same four criteria used across a broad spectrum of proto-orthodox authors of the second and third centuries. For these authors, a book was to be admitted into the proto-orthodox canon of Scripture only if it was:

(a) Ancient: Part of the reasoning is that which we have seen throughout our study: the suspicion of anything new and recent in ancient religion, where antiquity rather than novelty was respected. To be sure, Jesus himself was not "ancient," even from the perspective of the second or third centuries. But part of the value of antiquity is that it took one back to the point of origins, and since this religion originated with Jesus, for a sacred text to be accepted as authoritative it had to date close to his day. And so the Shepherd of Hermas could not pass muster in the Muratorian canon because it was, relatively speaking, a recent production.

(b) Apostolic: An authority had to be written by an apostle or at least by a companion of the apostles. And so the Muratorian canon accepts the Gospels of Luke (written by Paul's companion) and John, along with the writings of Paul. But it rejects forgeries in Paul's name by the Marcionites. We saw a similar criterion in the case of the Gospel of Peter: Initially it was accepted by the Christians of Rhossus because of its apostolic pedigree. Once it was decided Peter could not have written it, however, it was ruled out of court. Similar arguments transpired over books that did make it into the New Testament. The Apocalypse (or Revelation) of John, for example, was widely rejected by proto-orthodox Christians in the eastern part of the empire during the first four centuries, who argued that it was not written by the apostle. The book of Hebrews, on the other hand, was not accepted by most western churches because they did not think it was written by Paul. Eventually each side persuaded the other that the books were written by apostles (in both cases, it turns out, the skeptics were right), and both books came to be included.

(c) Catholic: Books had to enjoy widespread usage among "established" churches to be accepted into the proto-orthodox canon. In other words, canonical books needed to be catholic, the Greek term for "universal." hence the waffling in the Muratorian canon over the status of the Apocalypse of Peter. This author appears to favor the book, but he recognizes that others in the proto-orthodox community do not accept it for "reading in the church" (i.e., as a scriptural authority, as opposed to devotional material). One of the reasons that some of the shorter "catholic" epistles had difficulty making it into the New Testament - 2 and 3 John, 2 Peter, Jude - is simply because they were not widely used. But eventually they were judged to have been written by apostles and the difficulty caused by their relative disuse was overcome.

(d) Orthodox: The most important criteria for proto-orthodox Christians deciding on the canon had to do with a book's theological character. To some extent, in fact, the other criteria were handmaidens to this one. If a book was not orthodox, it obviously was not apostolic ("obviously," to one making the judgment) or ancient (it must have been forged recently) or catholic (in that most of the other "orthodox"churches would have nothing to do with it). To return to Serapion's evaluation of the Gospel of Peter: How did he know that Peter had not written it? It was because the book contained something that looked like a docetic Christology, and obviously Peter could not have written such a thing. This may not be how issues of authorship are decided by historical scholars today, but it proved to be a significant factor among the proto-orthodox. And so, the criterion of orthodoxy is clearly in the foreground in the Muratorian canon, where Gnostic and Montanist forgeries are excluded, as are Marcionite forgeries in the name of Paul, since one cannot "mix gall with honey". (Ehrman, Lost Christianities: The Battles for Scripture and the Faiths We Never Knew [Oxford University Press, Inc. 2003 (hardcover)], pp. 242-243)

Ehrman also has this to say regarding scholars who posit a date later than the second century for this list:

... The debate of recent years concern the date and location of the original. The common view of the matter since the days of Muratori has been that it was written somewhere in the vicinity of Rome in the second half of the second century, possibly during the time of Hippolytus. Recent scholars have tried to argue that the text is better located in the fourth century, somewhere in the eastern part of the empire. But the arguments have not proved altogether compelling... (Ibid., p. 241)

2. Origen (c. 185-254 AD.)

Origen, even in his day, was clearly aware of a canon of authoritative books:

The Unity and Harmony of Scripture

"Blessed are the peacemakers.... "[2] To the man who is a peacemaker in either sense there is in the Divine oracles nothing crooked or perverse, for they are all plain to those who understand.[3] And because to such an one there is nothing crooked or perverse, he sees therefore abundance of peace[4] IN ALL THE SCRIPTURES, even in those which seem to be at conflict, and in contradiction with one another. And likewise he becomes a third peacemaker as he demonstrates that that which appears to others to be a conflict IN THE SCRIPTURES is no conflict, and exhibits their concord and peace, whether of the Old Scriptures with the New, or of the Law with the Prophets, or of the Gospels with the Apostolic Scriptures, or of the Apostolic Scriptures with each other. For, also, according to the Preacher, ALL THE SCRIPTURES are "words of the wise like goads, and as nails firmly fixed which were given by agreement from one shepherd;"[5] and there is nothing superfluous in them. But the Word is the one Shepherd of things rational which may have an appearance of discord to those who have not ears to hear, but are truly at perfect concord. For as the different chords of the psalter or the lyre, each of which gives forth a certain sound of its own which seems unlike the sound of another chord, are thought by a man who is not musical and ignorant of the principle of musical harmony, to be inharmonious, because of the dissimilarity of the sounds, so those who are not skilled in hearing the harmony of God in THE SACRED SCRIPTURES think that the Old is not in harmony with the New, or the Prophets with the Law, or the Gospels with one another, or the Apostle with the Gospel, or with himself, or with the other Apostles. But he who comes instructed in the music of God, being a man wise in word and deed, and, on this account, like another David - which is, by interpretation, skilful with the hand - will bring out the sound of the music of God, having learned from this at the right time to strike the chords, now the chords of the Law, now the Gospel chords in harmony with them, and again the Prophetic chords, and, when reason demands it, the Apostolic chords which are in harmony with the Prophetic, and likewise the Apostolic with those of the Gospels. For he knows that ALL THE SCRIPTURE is the one perfect and harmonised[6] instrument of God, which from different sounds gives forth one saving voice to those willing to learn, which stops and restrains every working of an evil spirit, just as the music of David laid to rest the evil spirit in Saul, which also was choking him.[7] You see, then, that he is in the third place a peacemaker, who sees in accordance with the Scripture the peace of it all, and implants this peace in those who rightly seek and make nice distinctions in a genuine spirit. (From the Second Book of Commentary on the Gospel According to Matthew, Book II - Early Church Fathers, Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume X; online source)

It is clear from the above that for Origen the Scriptures included specific NT books. The following comes from Eusebius of Caesarea’s Ecclesiastical History, Book VI, Chapter XXV, speaking about Origen:

3 In his first book on Matthew's Gospel, maintaining the Canon of the Church, he testifies that he knows only four Gospels, writing as follows:

4 "Among the four Gospels, which are the only indisputable ones in the Church of God under heaven, I have learned by tradition that the first was written by Matthew, who was once a publican, but afterwards an apostle of Jesus Christ, and it was prepared for the converts from Judaism, and published in the Hebrew language.

5 The second is by Mark, who composed it according to the instructions of Peter, who in his Catholic epistle acknowledges him as a son, saying, ‘The church that is at Babylon elected together with you, saluteth you, and so doth Marcus, my son.’

6 And the third by Luke, the Gospel commended by Paul, and composed for Gentile converts. Last of all that by John."

7 In the fifth book of his Expositions of John's Gospel, he speaks thus concerning the epistles of the apostles: "But he who was ‘made sufficient to be a minister of the New Testament, not of the letter, but of the Spirit,’ that is, Paul, who ‘fully preached the Gospel from Jerusalem and round about even unto Illyricum,’ did not write to all the churches which he had instructed and to those to which he wrote he sent but few lines.

8 And Peter, on whom the Church of Christ is built, ‘against which the gates of hell shall not prevail,’ has left one acknowledged epistle; perhaps also a second, but this is doubtful.

9 Why need we speak of him who reclined upon the bosom of Jesus, John, who has left us one Gospel, though he confessed that he might write so many that the world could not contain them? And he wrote also the Apocalypse, but was commanded to keep silence and not to write the words of the seven thunders.

10 He has left also an epistle of very few lines; perhaps also a second and third; but not all consider them genuine, and together they do not contain hundred lines."

11 In addition he makes the following statements in regard to the Epistle to the Hebrews in his Homilies upon it: "That the verbal style of the epistle entitled ‘To the Hebrews,’ is not rude like the language of the apostle, who acknowledged himself ‘rude in speech’ that is, in expression; but that its diction is purer Greek, any one who has the power to discern differences of phraseology will acknowledge.

12 Moreover, that the thoughts of the epistle are admirable, and not inferior to the acknowledged apostolic writings, any one who carefully examines the apostolic text will admit."

13 Farther on he adds: "If I gave my opinion, I should say that the thoughts are those of the apostle, but the diction and phraseology are those of some one who remembered the apostolic teachings, and wrote down at his leisure what had been said by his teacher. Therefore if any church holds that this epistle is by Paul, let it be commended for this. For not without reason have the ancients handed it down as Paul's.

14 But who wrote the epistle, in truth, God knows. The statement of some who have gone before us is that Clement, bishop of the Romans, wrote the epistle, and of others that Luke, the author of the Gospel and the Acts, wrote it." But let this suffice on these matters. (Early Church Fathers Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Series II, Volume I; online source)


Origen recognizes and refers to most of the NT books, while mentioning that there were some that called into question the canonicity of 2 Peter, 2 and 3 John. He is silent on James and Jude.

3. Eusebius Of Caesarea (265 – 340 AD.)

From Ecclesiastical History, Book III, Chapter XXV:

1 Since we are dealing with this subject it is proper to sum up the writings of the New Testament which have been already mentioned. First then must be put the holy quaternion of the Gospels; following them the Acts of the Apostles.

2 After this must be reckoned the epistles of Paul; next in order the extant former epistle of John, and likewise the epistle of Peter, must be maintained. After them is to be placed, if it really seem proper, the Apocalypse of John, concerning which we shall give the different opinions at the proper time. These then belong among the accepted writings.

3 Among the disputed writings, which are nevertheless recognized by many, are extant the so-called epistle of James and that of Jude, also the second epistle of Peter, and those that are called the second and third of John, whether they belong to the evangelist or to another person of the same name.

4 Among the rejected writings must be reckoned also the Acts of Paul, and the so-called Shepherd, and the Apocalypse of Peter, and in addition to these the extant epistle of Barnabas, and the so-called Teachings of the Apostles; and besides, as I said, the Apocalypse of John, if it seem proper, which some, as I said, reject, but which others class with the accepted books.

5 And among these some have placed also the Gospel according to the Hebrews, with which those of the Hebrews that have accepted Christ are especially delighted. And all these may be reckoned among the disputed books.

6 But we have nevertheless felt compelled to give a catalogue of these also, distinguishing those works which according to ecclesiastical tradition are true and genuine and commonly accepted, from those others which, although not canonical but disputed, are yet at the same time known to most ecclesiastical writers - we have felt compelled to give this catalogue in order that we might be able to know both these works and those that are cited by the heretics under the name of the apostles, including, for instance, such books as the Gospels of Peter, of Thomas, of Matthias, or of any others besides them, and the Acts of Andrew and John and the other apostles, which no one belonging to the succession of ecclesiastical writers has deemed worthy of mention in his writings.

7 And further, the character of the style is at variance with apostolic usage, and both the thoughts and the purpose of the things that are related in them are so completely out of accord with true orthodoxy that they clearly show themselves to be the fictions of heretics. Wherefore they are not to be placed even among the rejected writings, but are all of them to be cast aside as absurd and impious.


Eusebius implies that all believers recognized 21 NT books as canonical. Eusebius also suggests that many, if not most, believers accepted James, Jude, 2 Peter, 2 and 3 John as canonical. He admits that there was a difference of opinion regarding Revelation.

4. Cyprian of Carthage (c. 246-258 AD.)

7. These things were before declared to us, and predicted. But we, forgetful of the law and obedience required of us, have so acted by our sins, that while we despise the Lord's commandments, we have come by severer remedies to the correction of our sin and probation of our faith. Nor indeed have we at last been converted to the fear of the Lord, so as to undergo patiently and courageously this our correction and divine proof. Immediately at the first words of the threatening foe, the greatest number of the brethren betrayed their faith, and were cast down, not by the onset of persecution, but cast themselves down by voluntary lapse. What unheard-of thing, I beg of you, what new thing had happened, that, as if on the occurrence of things unknown and unexpected, the obligation to Christ should be dissolved with headlong rashness? Have not prophets aforetime, and subsequently apostles, told of these things? Have not they, full of the Holy Spirit, predicted the afflictions of the righteous, and always the injuries of the heathens? Does not the sacred Scripture, which ever arms our faith and strengthens with a voice from heaven the servants of God, say, "Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and Him only shalt thou serve?" Does it not again show the anger of the divine indignation, and warn of the fear of punishment beforehand, when it says, "They worshipped them whom their fingers have made; and the mean man boweth down, and the great man humbleth himself, and I will forgive them not?" And again, God speaks, and says, "He that sacrifices unto any gods, save unto the Lord only, shall be destroyed." In the Gospel also subsequently, the Lord, who instructs by His words and fulfils by His deeds, teaching what should be done, and doing whatever He had taught, did He not before admonish us of whatever is now done and shall be done? Did He not before ordain both for those who deny Him eternal punishments, and for those that confess Him saving rewards? (Treatise III. On The Lapsed; online source)

10. There is no ground, therefore, dearest brother, for thinking that we should give way to heretics so far as to contemplate the betrayal to them of that baptism, which is only granted to the one and only Church. It is a good soldier's duty to defend the camp of his general against rebels and enemies. It is the duty of an illustrious leader to keep the standards entrusted to him. It is written, "The Lord thy God is a jealous God." We who have received the Spirit of God ought to have a jealousy for the divine faith; with such a jealousy as that wherewith Phineas both pleased God and justly allayed His wrath when He was angry, and the people were perishing. Why do we receive as allowed an adulterous and alien church, a foe to the divine unity, when we know only one Christ and His one Church? The Church, setting forth the likeness of paradise, includes within her walls fruit-bearing trees, whereof that which does not bring forth good fruit is cut off and is cast into the fire. These trees she waters with four rivers, that is, with the four Gospels, wherewith, by a celestial inundation, she bestows the grace of saving baptism. Can any one water from the Church's fountains who is not within the Church? Can one impart those wholesome and saving draughts of paradise to any one if he is perverted, and of himself condemned, and banished outside the fountains of paradise, and has dried up and failed with the dryness of an eternal thirst? (Epistle LXXII; online source)


Although not giving us a list of books, St. Cyprian places the Apostles on the level of the OT Prophets and classifies their writings (such as the four Gospels) as Sacred Scripture.

5. Cyril of Jerusalem: Catechetical Lectures, iv. 36 (c. 350 AD.)

Then of the New Testament there are the four Gospels only, for the rest have false titles and are mischievous. The Manichaeans also wrote a Gospel according to Thomas, which being tinctured with the fragrance of the evangelic title corrupts the souls of the simple sort. Receive also the Acts of the Twelve Apostles; and in addition to these the seven Catholic Epistles of James, Peter, John, and Jude; and as a seal upon them all, and the last work of the disciples, the fourteen Epistles of Paul. But let all the rest be put aside in a secondary rank. And whatever books are not read in Churches, these read not even by thyself, as thou hast heard me say. Thus much of these subjects. (Early Church Fathers Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Series II, Volume VII; online source)


Cyril accepts 26 of the 27 NT books as canonical. The one book he doesn’t mention is Revelation. It seems that Cyril’s reason for omitting Revelation was due to the excessive use of the book by the Montanist cults. This was also the reason why other Fathers rejected the Apocalypse.

6. The Cheltenham Canon (360 AD.)

Likewise the catalogue of the New Testament:
Four Gospels: Matthew, 2700 lines
Mark, 1700 lines
John, 1800 lines
Luke, 3300 lines
All the lines make 10,000 lines
Epistles of Paul, 13 in number
The Acts of the Apostles, 3600 lines
The Apocalypse, 1800 lines
Three Epistles of John, 350 lines
One only
Two Epistles of Peter, 300 lines
One only     (Source)


The only books missing from this list are James, Hebrews and Jude.

7. Athanasius: Thirty-Ninth Festal Letter (367 AD.)

5. Again it is not tedious to speak of the [books] of the New Testament. These are, the four Gospels, according to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Afterwards, the Acts of the Apostles and Epistles (called Catholic), seven, viz. of James, one; of Peter, two; of John, three; after these, one of Jude. In addition, there are fourteen Epistles of Paul, written in this order. The first, to the Romans; then two to the Corinthians; after these, to the Galatians; next, to the Ephesians; then to the Philippians; then to the Colossians; after these, two to the Thessalonians, and that to the Hebrews; and again, two to Timothy; one to Titus; and lastly, that to Philemon. And besides, the Revelation of John. (Early Church Fathers Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Series II, Volume IV; online source)


Athanasius accepts all 27 NT books as canonical.

8. The Ecclesiastical Canons of the Same Holy Apostles, Canon 85 (c. 380 A.D.)

... But our sacred books, that is, those of the New Covenant, are these: the four Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John; the fourteen Epistles of Paul; two Epistles of Peter, three of John, one of James, one of Jude; two Epistles of Clement; and the Constitutions dedicated to you, the bishops, by me Clement, in eight books; which it is not fit to publish before all, because of the mysteries contained in them; and the Acts of us the Apostles. (Early Church Fathers Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Series II, Volume VII; online source)


The above list recognizes 26 of 27 books as canonical. The book which isn’t listed is Revelation.

9. St. Damasus I (382 AD.)

Likewise, the list of the Scriptures of the New and Eternal Testament, which the holy and Catholic Church receives: of the Gospels, one book according to Matthew, one book according to Mark, one book according to Luke, one book according to John. The Epistles of the Apostle Paul, fourteen in number: one to the Romans, two to the Corinthians, one to the Ephesians, two to the Thessalonians, one to the Galatians, one to the Philippians, one to the Colossians, two to Timothy, one to Titus, one to Philemon, one to Hebrews.

Likewise, one book of the Apocalypse of John. And the Acts of the Apostles, one book.

Likewise, the canonical Epistles, seven in number: of the Apostle Peter, two Epistles; of the Apostle James, one Epistle; of the Apostle John, one Epistle; of the other John, a Presbyter, two Epistles; of the Apostle Jude the Zealot, one Epistle. Thus concludes the canon of the New Testament. (William A. Jurgens, The Faith of the Early Fathers, Volume 1 [Liturgical Press, Collegeville, MN], paragraph 910t, p. 406)


Damasus acknowledges all 27 NT books as canonical.

10. Gregory of Nazianus (329-389 AD.)

The following list is found in Gregory's poems (I. xii. 5 ff.) and was ratified by the Trullan Synod in 692:

... Matthew indeed wrote for the Hebrews the wonderful works of Christ, And Mark for Italy, Luke for Greece, John, the great preacher, for all, walking in heaven. Then the Acts of the wise apostles, And fourteen Epistles of Paul, And seven Catholic [Epistles], of which James is one, two of Peter, three of John again. And Jude's is the seventh. You have all. If there is any besides these, it is not among the genuine [books]. (Source)


The only book not mentioned by Gregory is Revelation. All the other books are accounted for.

11. The Canon Of Amphilochius Of Iconium (394 A.D.)

It is time for me to speak of the books of the New Testament. Receive only four evangelists: Matthew, then Mark, to whom, having added Luke As third, count John as fourth in time, But first in height of teachings, For I call this one rightly a son of thunder, Sounding out most greatly with the word of God. And receive also the second book of Luke, That of the catholic Acts of the Apostles. Add next the chosen vessel, The herald of the Gentiles, the apostle Paul, having written wisely to the churches Twice seven Epistles: to the Romans one, To which one must add two to the Corinthians, That to the Galatians, and that to the Ephesians, after which That in Philippi, then the one written To the Colossians, two to the Thessalonians, Two to Timothy, and to Titus and the Philemon, One each, and one to the Hebrews. But some say the one to the Hebrews is spurious, not saying well, for the grace is genuine. Well, what remains? Of the Catholic Epistles Some say we must receive seven, but others say Only three should be received -- that of James, one, And one of Peter, and those of John, one. And some receive three [of John], and besides these, two of Peter, and that of Jude a seventh. And again the Revelation of John, Some approve, but the most Say it is spurious, This is perhaps the most reliable (lit. most unfalsified) canon of the divinely inspired Scriptures. (Source)


This canon mentions the fact that some questioned the canonicity of Hebrews, Revelations as well as four out of the seven Catholic Epistles. Which of the four were questioned, this canon doesn’t say. That gives us 21 undisputed books reckoned as canonical.

Finally, we present the the comments of Rufinus.

12. Rufinus’ Commentary on the Apostles’ Creed (401-404 A.D.)

This then is the Holy Ghost, who in the Old Testament inspired the Law and the Prophets, in the New the Gospels and the Epistles. Whence also the Apostle says, "All Scripture given by inspiration of God is profitable for instruction."149 And therefore it seems proper in this place to enumerate, as we have learnt from the tradition of the Fathers, the books of the New and of the Old Testament, which, according to the tradition of our forefathers, are believed to have been inspired by the Holy Ghost, and have been handed down to the Churches of Christ...

Of the New there are four Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, John; the Acts of the Apostles, written by Luke; fourteen Epistles of the Apostle Paul, two of the Apostle Peter, one of James, brother of the Lord and Apostle, one of Jude, three of John, the Revelation of John. These are the books which the Fathers have comprised within the Canon, and from which they would have us deduce the proofs of our faith...

These are the traditions which the Fathers have handed down to us, which, as I said, I have thought it opportune to set forth in this place, for the instruction of those who are being taught the first elements of the Church and of the Faith, that they may know from what fountains of the Word of God their draughts must be taken. (Early Church Fathers Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Series II, Volume III; online source)


Rufinus’ comments imply that at this time the Church as a whole accepted beyond any dispute the 27 NT books as canonical, barring perhaps a few dissenting, schismatic voices.

Concluding Remarks

We have presented evidence to show that from early on many, if not most, of the NT books were recognized as authoritative and therefore canonical. Evidence shows that at least from the second century, if not earlier, the four Gospels, the Acts of the Apostles, and the Pauline Epistles were accepted as canonical. These books alone sufficiently present all the essential doctrines of the Christian faith, as was already mentioned in the first section.

Furthermore, the evidence for establishing the canonicity of the either the Old and New Testaments is actually much greater than the evidence for the Quran. Unlike the Muslim sources, which are removed from the events which they report by a period of 150 years or more, Christians have the writings of many of the Fathers such as Polycarp, Ignatius, Clement, Justin etc. These men weren’t writing hundreds of years after the composition of NT documents, but shortly after the time of the Apostles. Some of them were even ear and eyewitness to the Apostles. Therefore, the Christian sanad/isnad (chain of transmission) is much more sound and reliable than for that of the Muslim Sirah and Hadith literature.

Finally, it must always be kept in mind that the NT is a collection of books written by different authors in different places and at different times. Hence, it is not surprising that there would be some confusion amongst different Churches regarding the exact extent of the NT canon seeing that by the time a specific book reached them there may have been some doubts regarding its Apostolicity. The Quran, on the other hand, is the by-product of one man and we therefore do not expect there to be confusion regarding its exact extent and composition. But the Muslim records show that even Muhammad’s companions couldn’t agree on what precisely was part of the Quran or not. This again shows how vastly superior the transmission and canonization of the biblical books are in relation to the Quran. There was greater unanimity amongst the Churches regarding many of the NT books than there was amongst Muslims regarding the exact extent of one book, the Quran.

Recommended Reading


We also highly recommend the following Muslim article:


The team at Islamic Awareness has produced a chart listing the canons throughout the centuries. In so doing, they have actually made our job much easier by providing evidence supporting our claims. A careful reading of the chart will show that most of the biblical books were accepted early on by the Jewish and Christian communities, with the differences being over some of the books.


Early Patristic Evidence For the Canonicity of the Book of Revelation

The historical evidence shows that the book of Revelation was recognized and accepted as a genuine Apostolic book early on, and that debate arose over it only later in time. Here, we provide some of that evidence which establishes the canonicity and apostolicity of Revelation. We begin with the testimony of Irenaeus:

We will not, however, incur the risk of pronouncing positively as to the name of Antichrist; for if it were necessary that his name should be distinctly revealed in this present time, it would have been announced by him who beheld the apocalyptic vision. For that was seen no very long time since, but almost in our day, towards the end of Domitian's reign.

4. But he indicates the number of the name now, that when this man comes we may avoid him, being aware who he is: the name, however, is suppressed, because it is not worthy of being proclaimed by the Holy Spirit. For if it had been declared by Him, he (Antichrist) might perhaps continue for a long period. But now as "he was, and is not, and shall ascend out of the abyss, and goes into perdition," as one who has no existence; so neither has his name been declared, for the name of that which does not exist is not proclaimed. (Against Heresies, Book V; online source)

Irenaeus cites Revelation 17:8. Eusebius quotes Irenaeus’ statement regarding Revelation in his Ecclesiastical History, in Book III:

Chapter XVIII. The Apostle John and the Apocalypse.

1 It is said that in this persecution the apostle and evangelist John, who was still alive, was condemned to dwell on the island of Patmos in consequence of his testimony to the divine word.

2 Irenaeus, in the fifth book of his work Against Heresies, where he discusses the number of the name of Antichrist which is given in the so-called Apocalypse of John, speaks as follows concerning him:

3 "If it were necessary for his name to be proclaimed openly at the present time, it would have been declared by him who saw the revelation. For it was seen not long ago, but almost in our own generation, at the end of the reign of Domitian." (Source)

St. Cyprian cites Revelation (17:15) as divine Scripture:

12. But how perverse and how contrary it is, that although the Lord at the marriage made wine of water, we should make water of wine, when even the sacrament of that thing ought to admonish and instruct us rather to offer wine in the sacrifices of the Lord. For because among the Jews there was a want of spiritual grace, wine also was wanting. For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts was the house of Israel; but Christ, when teaching and showing that the people of the Gentiles should succeed them, and that by the merit of faith we should subsequently attain to the place which the Jews had lost, of water made wine; that is, He showed that at the marriage of Christ and the Church, as the Jews failed, the people of the nations should rather flow together and assemble: for the divine Scripture in the Apocalypse declares that the waters signify the people, saying, "The waters which thou sawest, upon which the whore sitteth, are peoples and multitudes, and nations of the Gentiles, and tongues," which we evidently see to be contained also in the sacrament of the cup. (Epistle LXII; Source)

Another Father, Hippolytus (c. 236 AD.), wrote:

4. ...For the Sabbath is the type and emblem of the future kingdom of the saints, when they "shall reign with Christ," when He comes from heaven, as John says in his Apocalypse: for "a day with the Lord is as a thousand years." Since, then, in six days God made all things, it follows that 6, 000 years must be fulfilled. And they are not yet fulfilled, as John says: "five are fallen; one is," that is, the sixth; "the other is not yet come" ...

20. For He was Himself the perfect Seal, and the Church is the key: "He who openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth," as John says. And again, the same says: "And I saw, on the right hand of Him that sat on the throne, a book written within and without, sealed with seven seals; and I saw an angel proclaiming with a loud voice, Who is worthy to open the book, and to loose the seals thereof? "and so forth. "And I beheld in the midst of the throne, and of the four beasts, a Lamb standing slain, having seven horns, and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent forth into all the earth. And He came and took the book out of the right hand of Him that sat upon the throne. And when He had taken the book, the four beasts and four-and-twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having harps and golden vials full of incense, which is the prayers of the saints. And they sing a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for Thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by Thy blood." He took the book, therefore, and loosed it, in order that the things spoken concerning Him of old in secret, might now be proclaimed with boldness upon the house-tops. (Exegetical Fragments from Commentaries on Various Books of Scripture, On Daniel (The interpretation by Hippolytus, (bishop) of Rome, of the visions of Daniel and Nebuchadnezzar, taken in conjunction), II (Early Church Fathers Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume V); online source)


35. ...Let us see now whether John has spoken to the same effect.

36. For he sees, when in the isle Patmos, a revelation of awful mysteries, which he recounts freely, and makes known to others. Tell me, blessed John, apostle and disciple of the Lord, what didst thou see and hear concerning Babylon? Arise, and speak; for it sent thee also into banishment. "And there came one of the seven angels which had the seven vials, and talked with me, saying unto me, Come hither; I will show unto thee the judgment of the great whore that sitteth upon many waters; with whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth have been made drunk with the wine of her fornication. And he carried me away in the spirit into the wilderness: and I saw a woman sit upon a scarlet-coloured beast, full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns. And the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet colour, and decked with gold, and precious stone, and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand, full of abominations and filthiness of the fornication of the earth. Upon her forehead was a name written, Mystery, Babylon the Great, the Mother of Harlots and Abominations of the Earth.

37. "And I saw the woman drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus: and when I saw her, I wondered with great admiration. And the angel said unto me, Wherefore didst thou marvel? I will tell thee the mystery of the woman, and of the beast that carrieth her, which hath the seven heads and the ten horns. The beast that thou sawest was, and is not; and shall ascend out of the bottomless pit, and go into perdition: and they that dwell on the earth shall wonder (whose name was not written in the book of life from the foundation of the world) when they behold the beast that was, and is not, and yet shall be.

38. "And here is the mind that has wisdom. The seven heads are seven mountains, on which the woman sitteth. And there are seven kings: five are fallen, and one is, and the other is not ye come; and when he cometh, he must continue a short space. And the beast that was and is not, (even he is the eighth,) and is of the seven, and goeth into perdition. And the ten horns which thou sawest are ten kings, which have received no kingdom as yet; but receive power as kings one hour with the beast. These have one mind, and shall give their power and strength unto the beast. These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them: for he is Lord of lords, and King of kings; and they that are with Him are called, and chosen, and faithful.

39. "And he saith to me, The waters which thou sawest, where the whore sitteth, are peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues. And the ten horns which thou sawest, and the beast, these shall hate the whore, and shall make her desolate and naked, and shall eat her flesh, and burn her with fire. For God hath put in their hearts to fulfil His will, and to agree, and give their kingdom unto the beast, until the words of God shall be fulfilled. And the woman which thou sawest is that great city, which reigneth over the kings of the earth.

40. "After these things I saw another angel come down from heaven, having great power; and the earth was lightened with his glory. And he cried mightily with a strong voice, saying, Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird. For all nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication, and the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth are waxed rich through the abundance of her delicacies. And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues: for her sins did cleave even unto heaven, and God hath remembered her l iniquities.

41. "Reward her even as she rewarded (you), and double unto her double, according to her works: in the cup which she hath filled, fill to her double. How much she hath glorified herself, and lived deliciously, so much torment and sorrow give her: for she saith in her heart, I sit a queen, and am no widow, and shall see no sorrow. Therefore shall her plagues come in one day, death, and mourning, and famine; and she shall be utterly burned with fire: for strong is the Lord God who judgeth her. And the kings of the earth, who have committed fornication, and lived deliciously with her, shall bewail her, and lament for her, when they shall see the smoke of her burning, standing afar off for the fear of her torment, saying, Alas, alas! that great city Babylon, that mighty city! for in one hour is thy judgment come. And the merchants of the earth shall weep and mourn over her; for no man shall buy their merchandise any more. The merchandise of gold, and silver, and precious stones, and of pearls, and fine linen, and purple, and silk, and scarlet, and all thyine wood, and all manner vessels of ivory, and all manner vessels of most precious wood, and of brass, and iron, and marble, and cinnamon, and spices, and odours, and ointments, and frankincense, and wine, and oil, and fine flour, and wheat, and beasts, and sheep, and goats, and horses, and chariots, and slaves (bodies), and souls of men. And the fruits that thy soul lusted after are departed from thee, and all things which were dainty and goodly have perished from thee, and thou shalt find them no more at all. The merchants of these things, which were made rich by her, shall stand afar off for the fear of her torment, weeping and wailing, and saying, Alas, alas! that great city, that was clothed in fine linen, and purple, and scarlet, and decked with gold, and precious stones, and pearls! for in one hour so great riches is come to nought. And every shipmaster, and all the company in ships, and sailors, and as many as trade by sea, stood afar off, and cried, when they saw the smoke of her burning, saying, What city is like unto this great city? And they cast dust on their heads, and cried, weeping and wailing, saying, Alas, alas! that great city, wherein were made rich all that had ships in the sea by reason of her fatness! for in one hour is she made desolate.

42. "Rejoice over her, thou heaven, and ye angels, and apostles, and prophets; for God hath avenged you on her. And a mighty angel took up a stone like a great millstone, and cast it into the sea, saying, Thus with violence shall that great city Babylon be thrown down, and shall be found no more at all. And the voice of harpers and musicians, and of pipers and trumpeters, shall be heard no more at all in thee; and no craftsman, of whatsoever craft he be, shall be found any more in thee; and the sound of a millstone shall be heard no more at all in thee; and the light of a candle shall shine no more at all in thee; and the voice of the bridegroom and of the bride shall be heard no more at all in thee: for thy merchants were the great men of the earth; for by thy sorceries were all nations deceived. And in her was found the blood of prophets and of saints, and of all that were slain upon the earth." (Part II. - Dogmatical and Historical (Early Church Fathers Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume V); online source)

Hippolytus cites Revelation with canonical authority, affirming that the Apostle John wrote it.

Church Father Victorinus (c. 270 AD.) wrote an entire commentary on Revelation. He says:

11. "And He says unto me, Thou must again prophesy to the peoples, and to the tongues, and to the nations, and to many kings."] He says this, because when John said these things he was in the island of Patmos, condemned to the labour of the mines by Caesar Domitian. There, therefore, he saw the Apocalypse; and when grown old, he thought that he should at length receive his quittance by suffering, Domitian being killed, all his judgments were discharged. And John being dismissed from the mines, thus subsequently delivered the same Apocalypse which he had received from God. This, therefore, is what He says: Thou must again prophesy to all nations, because thou seest the crowds of Antichrist rise up; and against them other crowds shall stand, and they shall fall by the sword on the one side and on the other. (Commentary on the Apocalypse of the Blessed John (Early Church Fathers Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume VII); online source)

We conclude with the following quotation from Clement of Alexandria:

Those, then, also now, who have exercised themselves in the Lord's commandments, and lived perfectly and gnostically according to the Gospel, may be enrolled in the chosen body of the apostles. Such an one is in reality a presbyter of the Church, and a true minister (deacon) of the will of God, if he do and teach what is the Lord's; not as being ordained by men, nor regarded righteous because a presbyter, but enrolled in the presbyterate because righteous. And although here upon earth he be not honoured with the chief seat, he will sit down on the four-and-twenty thrones, judging the people, as John says in the Apocalypse.

For, in truth, the covenant of salvation, reaching down to us from the foundation of the world, through different generations and times, is one, though conceived as different in respect of gift. For it follows that there is one unchangeable gift of salvation given by one God, through one Lord, benefiting in many ways. For which cause the middle wall which separated the Greek from the Jew is taken away, in order that there might be a peculiar people. And so both meet in the one unity of faith; and the selection out of both is one. And the chosen of the chosen are those who by reason of perfect knowledge are called [as the best] from the Church itself, and honoured with the most august glory-the judges and rulers-four-and-twenty (the grace being doubled) equally from Jews and Greeks. Since, according to my opinion, the grades here in the Church, of bishops, presbyters, deacons, are imitations of the angelic glory, and of that economy which, the Scriptures say, awaits those who, following the footsteps of the apostles, have lived in perfection of righteousness according to the Gospel. For these taken up in the clouds, the apostle writes, will first minister [as deacons], then be classed in the presbyterate, by promotion in glory (for glory differs from glory) till they grow into "a perfect man." (Stromata, Book 6, Chapter XIII (Early Church Fathers Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume II); online source)

Clement cites a litany of NT passages (Revelation 4:4, 11:16; Eph 2:14-16, 4:13; 1 Thessalonians 4:17; 1 Corinthians 15:41) as authoritative and even alludes to them as Scriptures.

The preceding evidence shows that from very early on men such as Irenaeus, who was a disciple of one of John’s followers (Polycarp), confirmed that Revelation was revealed to the beloved Apostle in a vision.

Sam Shamoun

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