The Canon of the New Testament

An Epic Journey from Origin to Development.

 © 2002, R. Martinez. All rights reservedcontact.gif

“…and on this rock I will build My church…”
- Matt 16:18



Several significant factors contribute to the make-up of the canon of the New Testament.  It is important to understand that, the formation of the New Testament canon did not evolve over-night, but was rather a lengthy process, which spans several hundred years of development.  A common misconception among most people is that, one-day early on, a council gathered together and decided which books to include, and which books to exclude from our present New Testament.  On the contrary, its development was evolutionary; in that, it was through a series of significant events, early church fathers, and documents that ultimately gave birth to the canon of the New Testament.

It should be mentioned, however, that it wasn’t until the fourth century at the Council of Hippo in AD393 that our present New Testament was officially accepted by the orthodox Church.  Although it should be stated, leading up to this event, the twenty-seven books that make-up the corpus of our New Testament was in circulation among the early Christians.  In order to understand its development, however, we should first define what is meant by the term,  “Canon” of scripture.

According to F.F. Bruce, author of “The Canon of Scripture,” the term "Canon “appears to have been first used by Athanasius, bishop of Alexandria, in a [Festal] letter circulated in AD 367.”1 Moreover, according to Norman Geisler, “The original meaning of the term canon can be traced to the Ancient Greeks, who used it in a literal sense: a Kanon was a rod, ruler, staff, or measuring rod.”2  For instance, in Egypt a reed was used to measure the depth of the Nile River.  As Geisler remarks, “This literal concept provided the basis for a later extended use of the word Kanon, meaning “standard,” “norm.”3 Finally, the Greek word kanon came to be used…in the general sense of ‘series’ or ‘list’.  It is this last usage that underlies the term ‘the canon of scripture.’4  In essence, the “canon” is a corpus of our twenty-seven books that make up what is known as the New Testament. 

What books then, make-up the collection of New Testament writings, who wrote them, and on what criteria were they accepted


            The corpus of our present New Testament was written during the first century over approximately a 40-50 year period, from approximately AD50/60–100.  The original texts were written by Apostles or by one of their associates.  The term Apostle according to HarperCollins Bible Dictionary is, “the English transliteration of a Greek word meaning "one who is sent out." An apostle is a personal messenger or envoy, commissioned to transmit the message or otherwise carry out the instructions of the commissioning agent.”5  In the case of Jesus’ Disciples, they were, “To Go into all the world and preach the Gospel” (Mark 16).  Consequently, they are considered the original “Apostles,” or “sent out ones.”  Thus, giving credence to the term “Apostolic Authority,” which simply means in this case that, no early church document was canonized into the New Testament, except for those documents that have their origin with an Apostle or one of their associates.

By ‘associate,’ this implies one who accompanied an Apostle on their missionary Journeys.  For instance, Bishop Eusebius (AD260 – 339), an early church Historian and learned scholar, tells us through the writing of Papias that, Mark was Peter’s companion, who “had been Peter’s interpreter, wrote down carefully [The Gospel of Mark], but not in order, all that he remembered of the Lord’s saying and doings…For he had one purpose only – to leave out nothing that he heard, and to make no misstatement about it.”6

 Furthermore, Luke was Paul’s associate who had accompanied Paul on most of his missionary journeys.  He wrote both the Gospel of Luke and Acts of the Apostles.  Moreover, the “Muratorian” manuscript gives us some idea of Luke’s role as a first century writer.  According to F.F. Bruce, “The [Muratorian] document is best regarded as a list of New Testament books recognized as authoritative in the Roman Church at that time.”7  The manuscript states that, “After the ascension of Christ, Luke the physician, whom Paul had taken along with him as a legal expert, wrote [the record] down in his own name in accordance with [Paul’s] opinion.  He himself [Luke], however, never saw the Lord in the flesh and therefore, as far as he could follow [the course of events], began to tell it from the nativity of John.”8

Paul on the other hand, is responsible for writing two thirds of our present New Testament, for which he is accredited for approximately fifty percent of the twenty-seven extant letters; which equates to thirteen letters (fourteen, if Paul wrote Hebrews).   The Gospel according to John and the Apocalypse (Book of Revelation) is accredited to the Apostle John.  It should be noted, however, that the Apocalypse was not “fully” recognized by the church at Rome (orthodox church) until the fourth century.  In addition, all four gospels remain anonymous where authorship is concerned.  In other words, none of the authors’ names appeared on the original letters until much later. 

The Gospels, however, that were in circulation at the time, were perceived by the early Christians, as having been written by Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John. 

Moreover, 1st and 2nd Peter is attributed to the Apostle Peter. Although it should be stated that 2nd Peter was not as easily accepted as 1st Peter was.  This was because many felt that Peter was not the original author of 2nd Peter; therefore, some of the early churches were reluctant to accept it.  In addition, both 2nd and 3rd John received similar treatment as 2nd Peter did; however, by the fourth century they were all officially accepted as part of the canon of the New Testament.  The author of the book of James is attributed as the brother of Jesus, and not the Apostle James.  The later having died around AD44, making it too early to have written the book.  The author of Jude is said to have also been the brother of James, which would make him the brother of the Lord.  Although both James and Jude did not describe themselves as brothers of Jesus; others however, did not hesitate to speak of them as such (Matt 13:55; Jn 7:3-10; Acts 1:14; 1Cor 9:5; Gal 1:19).

In sum, the corpus of our present New Testament is comprised of the following twenty-seven books: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John (Four Gospels). Acts, Romans, 1&2 Corinthians, Gatlations, Ephesians, Philipians, Collosians, 1&2 Thessalonians, 1&2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon, Hebrews, James, 1&2 Peter, 1-3John, Jude, and Revelation or Apocalypse.

It should be asked at this point, “How did the early church go about collecting the writings that make-up are present New Testament?  For approximately thirty years after the Lord’s death and resurrection, there were no writings; most teachings about Jesus were passed on by word of mouth.  It wasn’t until approximately AD50-55 that the first writings emerge, which is the Apostle Paul’s letter, 1st Thessalonians.  Hence, other writings began to surface such as, “The Gospel of Mark (AD60-65),” and concludes with  John’s Apocalypse in the late AD90’s.

 How then was the message of Christianity conveyed from after the Lord’s death and resurrection in AD30 to the first writings around AD50-60.  Hence, it was communicated exclusively for the most part, by word of mouth.



When the Gospels were written, not all of the churches had a complete corpus of the New Testament.  A first century church would perhaps have one copy of Matthew, while another might have the Gospel of Mark.

Moreover, in an age of illiteracy where writing material was scarce, most of the Christian population was considered illiterate; approximately one percent of them could read or write.  The Bishops or leaders on the other hand, for the most part were considered literate.  In essence, they would need to be able to read if they were going to minister to their congregations.  It wouldn’t be inconceivable then, for a church to select its leadership solely on the criteria of literacy. 

Furthermore, with respect to the literacy rate among Christians and non-Christians, “the extent of literacy was about 10 percent and never exceeded 15 – 20 percent of the population as a whole.  The written culture of antiquity was in the main restricted to a privileged minority – though in some places it was a large minority – and it co-existed with elements of an oral culture.”9  Consequently, the early church grew up within a predominately Oral Culture.  

Historians tell us that Churches in the first and well into the second century, would read an entire NT book to their congregation for hours without preaching or teaching; consequently, the Christian message was communicated primarily through word of mouth.  Perhaps now we can better understand why Paul would write, “and when this epistle is read among you, cause that it be read also in the church of the Laodiceans; and that ye likewise read the epistle from Laodicea” (Col 4:16).   

There came a point when the need arose to depend on a written message, rather than an oral one; especially after the first century when the Apostles had passed on.  Moreover, with the spread of Christianity, a written form of the Gospel(s) would help Christians to answer questions that were being raised by the communities that surrounded them. Thus, a written copy of the Gospel(s) would help them to deepen and define their faith when dealing with the communities that surrounded them.  In one sense, we can thank God for Paul’s imprisonment: “But I would ye should understand, brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel” (Phil 1:12).  If he was not imprisoned, there’s a good chance that we wouldn’t have the New Testament as we have it today.

If the teachings of Jesus were passed on orally, and subsequently written down, how was the church able to discern between what was doctrinally correct or incorrect?  In other words, how was a church able to distinguish between the Gospel of Thomas and the Gospel of Mark? How did a church know to exclude the Shepherd of Hermas, yet include 1st John?   It should be pointed out that, there were other teachings that were written besides what we know of in our New Testament, but were later excluded because tones of heresy were found within their doctrines.  Another reason why documents were excluded were not because of heresy, but rather because they were not written by an apostle or their associate; thus failing to meet the criteria of ‘apostolic authority.’ Some of the heretical teachings included, Gnosticism and Marcionism.  It is these types of teachings that forced the early Church into a position to define herself; which in essence, was the catalyst that gave birth to the cannon of the New Testament.



With the rise and spread of Christianity during the first and second century, there arose a great number of strange doctrines that diverted from the orthodox teachings of the Apostles.  This form of doctrine was known as "Gnosticism."  The term "Gnostic" derives its name from the Greek word, “Gnosis,” which means “knowledge.”  Its fundamental tenets taught that, the way to salvation was through a “special-knowledge,” which one could acquire through a series of Gnostic teachings.  While these teachings included the Gospels, they were tainted, so as to demote the sacrificial work of Christ; thus, nullifying the gift of Salvation.  According to Bruce Shelley, author of Church History In Plain Language, Gnosticism was, “The basic belief…of what we call dualism, that is, they believed that the world is ultimately divided between two cosmic forces, good and evil. In line with much Greek philosophy, they identified evil with matter.  Because of this they regarded any Creator God as wicked.  Creation by a deity, they felt, was not so much impossible as it was indecent.  Their own Supreme Being was far removed from any such tendency to “evil.”  Since the ultimate deity could have no contact with the material world, the Gnostic explained creation by a series of emanations…The exact relationship of the series of emanations [proceeding powers or Aeons] differed in the different gnostic schools…But they agreed that somehow the pure light of heaven in the soul of man had become involved in this unpleasant business of matter and had to be redeemed…Christ, however, could have no real contact with matter, so at the baptism of Jesus of Nazareth, or thereabouts, the Christ descended into him; then at the arrest of Jesus, or thereabouts, it withdrew.”10

One can readily see how this type of teaching could tarnish the salvation message of Jesus Christ.  If Jesus did not come in the flesh, die on the cross, and spill his blood, then salvation would be impossible; thus, leaving humanity in a hopeless state of corruption.  Hence, perhaps we can better understand why the Apostle John in his letter, aggressively attacked such false teachings (Gnosticism): “and every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh [matter] is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world.” (1Jn 4:3).  As Shelley portends, “This special knowledge of the spiritual world posed a major threat to apostolic Christianity.”11  This is important because it forced the church at Rome into a position that would require it to redefine herself. 

Consequently, it’s clear why "creeds" were extremely popular in the early church; especially the "Apostles Creed."  According to Alister McGrath, “These creeds are intended to remind believers of the basic themes of their faith, and enable them to avoid false teachings…”12  In a predominately illiterate society, a creed was relatively short, easy to memorize, and therefore made the Christian message readily ascertainable.  Thus, a believer through a capsulized version would be able to absorb in a palatable manner the fundamental tenets of Christianity, and simultaneously avoid heretical doctrines.

Another school of heretical thought that has its origin in Gnosticism, was Marcionism. This is important to our study because the founder, Marcion, was the first person we have record of to create his own canon of New Testament scriptures; which, as we will see, tacitly forced the early Church to redefine herself ecclesiastically, as well as doctrinally.



Marcion, (Born AD100), was the son of a church leader, who became known as the founder of Marcionism.  Initially he sought acceptance from the church at Rome through his teachings; however, after the church examined them, it became clear that they diverted from the orthodox Christian message delivered down to them from the apostles. Thus, his teachings were rejected as heresy, and so he decided to uproot and start his own church, which according to history lasted for several centuries.  Marcionism, however, eventually died out as a result of a lack of members.  What hurt his churches growth was that, “Celibacy was obligatory on all its membership.”13

             Marcion taught that the God of the Old Testament was "different" than the God of the New Testament.  He said that the OT God was evil, and that the New Testament God was a loving father; consequently, he rejected the OT entirely, and only accepted the New Testament.  Moreover, he rejected "portions" of the New Testament if it had Judaic over-tones woven into it.  He said that those portions of the NT that had Judaic over-tones, were interpolated by Judaizers, whose sole purpose was to corrupt the Christian message.  In other words, according to Marcion, Jews got their hands on the manuscripts of the apostles and inserted Jewish material into them; thereby corrupting the scriptures.  Consequently, he reedited the NT manuscripts, so as to extract any scripture(s) that had anything to do with the Old Testament.   Thus, he produced a mutilated version of the New Testament.  Although his teachings were Gnostic in nature, he did take a liking to Paul's writings; however, where he saw OT inferences, they were severely edited.  One can imagine what this did for Paul’s reputation in the early Church.

Like the Gnostics, Marcion taught, “The God who created the material universe, the God of Israel, was (he held) a totally different being from the Father of whom Jesus spoke.  The Father was the good and merciful God whom none had ever heard until Jesus came to reveal him.  As in the teachings of most Gnostic schools, the God who made the material world was an inferior deity – inferior in status and morality alike – to the supreme God who was pure spirit.  The Gnostic depreciation of the material order finds an echo in Marcion’s refusal to believe that Jesus entered human life by being born of a woman.”14  Again, like Gnosticism, his doctrine denied that Christ came in the flesh.  This belief, like other heretical teachings, denies the incarnation of Christ.  Thus, rendering the Gospel message to no-effect.

            His list of New Testament writings were called the “Gospel and Apostle,” which included: 1) the Gospel of Luke, which was severely edited to exclude Judaic scriptural over-tones; and 2) the Apostle, which included, “Galatians, 1&2 Corinthians, Romans, 1&2 Thessalonians, Laodiceans (Ephesians), Colossians, Philippians, and Philemon.  Again, these texts were customized so as to fit his twisted doctrinal views. 

            Marcion’s canon was the first attempt by anyone that we have record of in the early church to formally provide a list of New Testament documents, and then claim them as final authority.  Again, as a consequence of Marcion’s endeavors, the church at Rome was forced to redefine herself.  According to Theodor Von Zahn, “Marcion formed his bible in declared opposition to the holy scriptures of the church from which he had separated; it was in opposition to his criticism that the church in its turn first became rightly conscious of its heritage of apostolic writings.”15

            It’s important to understand that there were other heretical doctrines of the day that, for the sake of brevity will not be discussed.  Some of these movements included, Montanism, Valentinianism, docetism, and Arianism.  All of which stray doctrinally from the fundamental tenets of orthodox Christianity; and yet, they remain harmonious; in that, they are consistent in denying the incarnation of Christ.  Thus, rendering the substitutionary sacrifice of Christ on the cross to no-effect.

            This gives credence to another question: “if the teachings of Marcion…were unsound, what was the sound teaching, and how could it be defended?”16  The Churches response to Marcionism was not to exclude scriptures; instead, it sought to include them.  In other words, Marcion's mutilated canon, gave impetus to the church at Rome to respond with gun-powder of her own: "We do not reject the Old Testament scriptures, as Marcion does, they said; we accept them, as did Jesus and the apostles (both the original apostles and Paul).  As for the scriptures of the new order, we accept not one gospel writing only, but four…We accept not only ten letters of Paul, but thirteen...We accept not the letters of Paul only, but letters of other apostles too.  We accept the Acts of the Apostles, a work which links the gospels and the apostolic letters.”17  The church at Rome compiled this list in what is better known as the "Muratorian Canon."  It dates back to the second century, and is “best regarded as a list of New Testament books recognized as authoritative in the Roman Church at the time.”18

            In addition to the heterodox doctrines of the day, there were other books in circulation that were not considered heretical, but in fact, were esteemed by the early Christian community as worthy reading material.  However, it should be pointed out that, these books were not included within our New Testament because they did not originate apostolically. 

At this point, in order to determine how these early documents were categorized and distinguished, attention should be given to our early church historian, Eusebius. 



            Eusebius “may properly be acknowledged as the second Christian historian, the first being Luke.  His greatest work ever produced was his Ecclesiastical History, in which he traces the fortunes of the Christian movement from the time of Christ to the establishment of the peace of the church under Constantine in AD 313.”19  He divides early Christian documents into three categories: 1) universally acknowledged; 2) Disputed; and 3) Spurious.  He writes, “In the first place should be placed the holy tetrad of the gospels.  These are followed by the writings of the Acts of the Apostles.  After this should be reckoned the epistles of Paul.  Next after them should be recognized the so-called first epistle of John and likewise that of Peter.  In addition to these must be placed, should it seem right, John’s Apocalypse. [John’s Apocalypse was not officially accepted until the fourth century at the council of Hippo – AD 393] To the books which are disputed, but recognized by the majority, belong the so-called epistle of James and that of Jude, the second epistle of Peter and the so-called second and third Epistles of John…Among the books which are spurious should be reckoned the Acts of Paul, the so-called Shepherd, the Apocalypse of Peter and in addition to these the so-called epistle of Barnabas and the so-called Teachings of the Apostles [Didache], and moreover, as I said, the Apocalypse of John, should it seem right.  For, as I said, some reject it, while others count it among the acknowledged books.  Some have also included in the list the Gospel according to the Hebrews, in which special pleasure is taken by those of the Hebrews who have accepted Christ.”20  What is most significant about this passage, is that Eusebius categorically distinguishes between documents, in both an inclusive and exclusive manner. In other words, it’s apparent that the early Church was intelligent enough to distinguish as early as the second and third century, what books should be included as sacred scripture, as well as which books should not be treated as such.

It is interesting to note that, all of the books Eusebius mentions as “universally accepted” by the early Christian communities, actually make-up the bulk of our present New Testament.  Moreover, it should be pointed out that, the disputed books that eventually gained “universal acceptance,” in essence, were disputed for the most part because of questions surrounding the “authorship” of the books. 

The spurious books on the other hand, were for the most part condemned as being forged by false teachers.  It was not uncommon for an author to claim a book to be written by an Apostle, when in reality it was the work of forgery.  This was done, so that the book would gain “universal acceptance.”  For instance, the “Acts of Paul” was fabricated along these lines, and the “author was therefore deposed from his office as presbyter in one of the churches in Asia.”21  In another instance, while one of the early churches was utilizing a book with Peter's name on it, it became clear that it was by nature spurious: "when Bishop Serapion heard that the church at Rhossus was using the Gospel of Peter; and that it had been “tinged with docetism (it implies that he [Jesus] did not really suffer), then he decided that he ought to pay the church of Rhossus a pastoral visit to make sure that it had not been led astray by this heterodox teaching.”22

It should be stated, however, that among the spurious books that Eusebius mentions such as the Didache, Shepherd of Hermas, and Epistle of Barnabas; these books were considered by many to be great works of devotion, but were not to be considered canonical.  They were considered uncanonical because they were not apostolic in origin.  It would be fair to say that if the writings of the early church were not limited on the basis or criteria of “apostolic authority,” then the Church would have been forced to consider a slough of other books, which ultimately would have affected the canonization process.

 Another way the church combated heretical or spurious books was by asking, “What does it teach about the person and work of Christ?  Does it maintain the apostolic witness to him as the historical Jesus of Nazareth, crucified and raised from the dead, divinely exalted as Lord over all?”23  In essence, the early Church was able through a systematic approach, determine which books were canonical and which ones were not.  Thus, this way of thinking ultimately gave birth to the ‘Canon of the New Testament.’ 

Having said this, we should now turn our attention to Athanasius.


  According to Glenn Davis, “Saint Athanasius, theologian, ecclesiastical statesman, and Egyptian national leader, was the chief defender of Christian orthodoxy in the 4th-century battle against Arianism, the heresy that the Son of God was a creature of like, but not of the same, substance as God the Father.  Athanasius attended the Council of Nicaea (325) and shortly thereafter became bishop of Alexandria (328).”24  In AD 367, Bishop Athanasius wrote a letter to his churches to announce the date of Easter.  Apparently this was a letter in which he wrote yearly, in order to remind his churches of the date of Easter.  What is unique about this letter is that, he formally lists all of the New Testament books that make-up our present NT canon.  His list of twenty-seven NT books was intended to serve as a guide to his churches, so that they would know what books were acceptable and which ones were not.  His list included, “Four gospels-according to Matthew, according to Mark, according to Luke, according to John.  Then after these the acts of the Apostles and the seven so-called catholic epistles of the apostles, as follows: one of James, two of Peter, three of John and, after these, one of Jude.  Next to these are fourteen epistles of the apostle Paul, written in order as follows: First to the Romans; then two to the Corinthians, and after these to the Galatians and next that to the Ephesians; then to the Philippians; then to the Colossians and two to the Thessalonians; then to the Hebrews.  Next are two to Timothy, one to Titus, and last the one to Philemon.  Moreover, John’s Apocalypse.”25

What is important about his “39th Festal Letter," written in AD367, is that not only does his list of twenty-seven books appear in our New Testament, but that from this point forward, these books begin to take on a new meaning within the Church.  In essence, the twenty-seven books are promulgated throughout the known world as sacred scripture; which means that all other books whether written afore or after, are to take second place to the twenty-seven books that make up the New Testament.  Thus, this manifested itself in full-fruition at the Council of Hippo in AD 393, where the Church (ekklesia) ‘officially accepts’ and recognizes the corpus of the New Testament canon as sacred scripture.  It should be stated, however, that there were other preceding councils that list the NT books, but it was the council at Hippo that officially recognized our present NT canon.  Hence, as Glenn Davis remarks, “the first council that accepted the present New Testament canon was the Synod of Hippo Regius in North Africa (393 CE).”26


            As mentioned earlier, the process and formation of the New Testament canon was an evolutionary event that took several centuries before it was brought to completion. Beginning with the death and resurrection of Christ (AD30), Christianity began to spread predominately through the oral tradition; eventually taking on a written form from Approximately AD50/60 - 90/100, in what came to be known as the New Testament. 

            Through teachings brought about by Gnosticism, Marcionism, and other heretical movements, the Church was forced to define herself through the concept of apostolic authority.  Moreover, history intimates that she further sought to solidify and strengthen herself through a production of significant documents and events such as, the “Muratorian Canon,” Athanasius’ “39th festal letter,” and the “Council of Hippo” in AD 393. 

In essence, it is these refining events that gave birth to the canon of the New Testament.  In the ages to come, however, the Church would soon encounter some of her fiercest enemies, but it would be the solidifying and cementing effect of the New Testament that would enable her to weather through any storm she would face.


Matt 7:24-25, "Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: "and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock.


While this paper falls short in many respects, it has been my goal to provide a brief survey of the development of the New Testament Canon.  My endeavor has been to broaden the readers understanding of the various epochs of canon history.    

Please note, there are many early church figures and documents that are not mentioned within this paper; as a result, in the proceeding pages I have provided a list of key documents, figures, scriptures, and a time-table that will further aid the reader in their study of the New Testament Canon.


Apochryphal New Testament Writings

The following list is a semi-comprehensive list of early documents that were in circulation in the early church.  Many of these writings, however, contained Gnostic over-tones, and therefore were excluded from the canon of the New Testament.  However, some of these writings did not contain Gnostic literature; consequently, the early church perceived them as excellent reading material, but non-canonical in nature.  For instance, 1 Clement, Epistle of Barnabas, Didache, and the Shepherd of Hermas, are part of this collection.

Document                                           Written (A.D.)

Gospel of Thomas                                150

Gospel of Truth                                    140

Gospel of the Twelve                            2nd-Century

Gospel of Peter                                    100-130

Gospel of Basilides                               2nd-Century

Gospel of the Egyptians                        100-150

Gospel of the Hebrews             150

Gospel of Matthias                               150

Preaching of Peter                                100-120

Acts of Andrew                                    150-200

Acts of Paul                                          185-195

Acts of John                                         150

Epistle to the Laodiceans                   2nd – 4th Century

I Clement                                                95-96

Epistle of Barnabas                              70-135

Didache                                              70-200

Shepherd of Hermas                            90-175

Apocalypse of Peter                            135

Early Church Fathers

The following are “scriptural-quotes” used in the writings of early church figures, dating from the second through the fourth century.  This implies that the early church had a working knowledge of the New Testament Scriptures; thereby, proving that portions of our present New Testament were in circulation, as early as the latter part of the first century.  


Bishop of Antioch in Syria (martyred-AD110); author of seven letters.

Scripture references used in his letters:

Matthew 12:33 - I Thessalonians 5:17 - I Colossians 1:23 - 1 Corinthians 1:20 - Romans 1:3 - Acts 1:25 – Ephesians 4:2.

Polycarp (AD70-155)

Bishop of Smyrna (modern day Izmir, Turkey), Martyred AD155.

Scripture references used in his letters:

Matthew 7:12 – Mark 9:35 – Luke 6:20 – Acts 2:24 – Romans 14:10 – I Corinthians 14:25 – II Corinthians 4:14 – Galatians 6:7 – Ephesians 4:26 – Philippians 3:21 – I Thessalonians 3:15 – I Timothy 6:10 – II Timothy 2:25 – Hebrews 12:28 – I Peter 3:9 – I John 3:8 – III John 1:8.

Justin Martyr (AD100-165)

Converted to Christianity in AD130, first Christian Greek Philosopher-Apologist.

Scripture references used in his letters:

Matthew 2:1 - Mark 3:16-17 – Luke 22:44,42 – John 3:3.

Irenaeus – (AD120-200)

Bishop of Lyons

Scripture references used in his letters:

Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John-626 quotations from all four gospels -  Pauline Epistles: Romans-84 quotations; I Corinthians-102 quotations; II Corinthians-18 quotations; Galatians-27 quotations; Ephesians-37 quotations; Philippians-13 quotations; Colossians 18-quotations; I Thessalonians 2-quotations; II Thessalonians-9 quotations; I Timothy-5 quotations; II Timothy-5 quotations; Titus-4 quotations.

Clement of Alexandria – (AD150-211)

Christian Apologist – Theologian and leader of the catechetical school of Alexandria.

Scripture references used in his letters:

Clement cites scripture within every book of the New Testament with the exception of Philemon, James, 2 Peter, and 2 & 3 John.

Tertullian of Carthage – (AD155-220)

Author and Polemicist – (AD155-220).

Scripture references used in his letters:

He cites all the books of the New Testament with the exception of, II Peter, James, II John, and III John.

Origen – (AD185-253)

Theologian and Biblical Scholar - teacher in Alexandria.

Scripture references used in his letters:

Origin cites all the books of the New Testament.

Divine Inspiration

The following is a list of scriptures that infer that the writings of the New Testament were divinely inspired; thus, giving credence and validation for a New Testament: 

John 14:26 - But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.

1Thes 2:13 – For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe.

1 Cor 2:12-13 - Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God.  These things we also speak, not in words which man's wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual.

1 Cor 14:37 - If anyone thinks himself to be a prophet or spiritual, let him acknowledgethat the things which I write to you are the commandments of the Lord.

1 Cor 7:10 - Now to the married I command, yet not I but the Lord: A wife is not to depart from her husband.

Gal 1:11-12 - But I make known to you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man.  For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through the revelation of Jesus Christ.

Eph 3:3 - how that by revelation He made known to me the mystery (as I have briefly written already,…

End Notes

1 F.F. Bruce, The Canon of Scripture, p. 17.

2 Geisler and Nix, A General Introduction to the Bible, p. 203.

3 Ibid., p. 12.

4 Bruce, p. 8.

5 See HarperCollins Bible Dictionary for defintion.

6 Eusebius, The History of the Church, p. 104.

7 Bruce, p. 159.

8 Ibid., p. 159.

9 Harry Y. Gamble, Books and Readers in the Early Church, p. 4.

10 Bruce L. Shelley, Church History In Plain Language, p. 51-52.

11 Shelley, p. 51.

12 Alister E. McGrath, An Introduction to Christianity, p. 362.

13 Bruce, p. 136.

14 Ibid., p. 136.

15 Th. von Zahn, Geschichte des neutestamentlichen Kanons, I, p. 586.

16 Bruce, p. 150.

17 Ibid., p. 151.

18 Ibid., p. 159.

19 Ibid., p. 197.

20 Eusebius, The History of the Church, p. 88-89.

21 Bruce, p. 261.  

22 Ibid., p. 261.

23 Ibid., p. 260.

24 Glenn Davis, Athanasius of Alexandria, p. 1.

25 Bruce, p. 208.

26 Davis, Early lists of the Books of the New Testament, p. 1.


Bruce, F.F. The Canon Of Scripture. Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1988.

Davis, Glenn. The Development of the Canon of the New Testament,, 1997-2001.

Gamble, Harry Y. Books and Readers In The Early Church: A History of Early Christian Texts, Chelsea, Michigan: Book Crafters, Inc., 1995.

Geisler, Norman L., Nix, William E. A General Introduction To The Bible, Chicago, Illinois: Moody Press, 1968, 1986.

McGrath, Alister. An Introduction To Christianity, Malden, Massachusetts: Blackwell Publishers, Inc., 1997.

Shelley, Bruce L. Church History In Plain Language, Dallas, Texas: Word Publishing, 1982, 1995.

The Society of Biblical Literature. HarperCollins Bible Dictionary, New York, New York: HarperCollins, 1985, 1996.

Williamson, G.A. Eusebius: The History of The Church, New York, New York: Penguin Putnam, Inc., 1965. 

Zahn, Th. von. Geschichte des neutestamentlichen Kanons, I, II (Erlangen, 1888-92)

Rich Martinez is a graduate student in the field of New Testament Studies at the Alliance Theological Seminary in Nyack, NY.