Hoi Polloi Podcast on Biblical Canon Lists

A couple of weeks ago, I had the privilege of joining Abidan Paul Shah, pastor of Clearview Church and PhD candidate at Southeastern Seminary, on his Hoi Polloi Podcast. We discussed my and Ed Gallagher’s The Biblical Canon Lists from Early Christianity: Texts and Analysis among other matters related to the biblical canon. Here is the video of the exchange, and I hope you find it helpful.

3 thoughts on “Hoi Polloi Podcast on Biblical Canon Lists

  1. Dear John,

    I really like the interview. One thing that I thought was missing is the role of Eusebius played in his list of books (see below).

    The Epistles of the Apostles (from *Ecclesiastical History* 3.3.5-7)

    … Paul’s fourteen epistles are well known and undisputed. It is not indeed right to overlook the fact that some have rejected the *Epistle to the Hebrews*, saying that it is disputed by the church of Rome, on the ground that it was not written by Paul. But what has been said concerning this epistle by those who lived before our time I shall quote in the proper place. In regard to the so-called Acts of Paul, I have not found them among the undisputed writings.

    But as the same apostle, in the salutations at the end of the Epistle to the Romans, has made mention among others of Hermas, to whom the book called *The Shepherd* is ascribed, it should be observed that this too has been disputed by some, and on their account cannot be placed among the acknowledged books; while by others it is considered quite indispensable, especially to those who need instruction in the elements of the faith. Hence, as we know, it has been publicly read in churches, and I have found that some of the most ancient writers used it. This will serve to show the divine writings that are undisputed as well as those that are not universally acknowledged.

    The Divine Scriptures that are Accepted and Those That are Not (from *Ecclesiastical History* 3.25.1-7)

    [recognized] At this point it seems appropriate to summarize the writings of the New Testament which have already been mentioned. In the first place must be put the holy quaternion of the Gospels, which are followed by the book of the Acts of the Apostles.

    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 recognized. After these must be put, if it really seems right, the Apocalypse of John, concerning which we shall give the different opinions at the proper time. These, then, [are to placed] among the recognized books.

    [disputed] Of the disputed books, which are nevertheless familiar to the majority, there are extant the Epistle of James, as it is called; and that of Jude; and 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 of the same name.

    [spurious] Among the spurious books must be reckoned also the Acts of Paul, and the Shepherd, as it is called, and the Apocalypse of Peter; and, in addition to these, the extant Epistle of Barnabas, and the Teaching of the Apostles [Didache] , as it is called. And, in addition, as I said, the Apocalypse of John, if it seems right. (This last as I said, is rejected by some, but others count it among the recognized books.) And among these some have counted also the Gospel of the Hebrews, with which those of the Hebrews who have accepted Christ take a special pleasure.

    [heretical] Now all these would be among the disputed books; but nevertheless we have felt compelled to make this catalogue of them, distinguishing between those writings which, according to the tradition of the Church, are true and genuine and recognized, from the others which differ from them in that they are not canonical, but disputed, yet nevertheless are known to most churchmen. [And this we have done] in order that we might be able to know both these same writings and also those which the heretics put forward under the name of the apostles; including, for instance, such books as the Gospels of Peter, of Thomas, of Matthias, or even of some others besides these, and the Acts of Andrew and John and the other apostles. To none of these has any who belonged to the succession of ecclesiastical writers ever thought it right to refer in his writings.

    Moreover, the character of the style also is far removed from apostolic usage, and the thought and purport of their contents are completely out of harmony with true orthodoxy and clearly show themselves that they are the forgeries of heretics. For this reason they ought not to be reckoned among the spurious books, but are to be cast aside as altogether absurd and impious.

    Gnosticism was the greatest threat to Christianity in the 2nd-4th Century CE. The allegorical interpretation of Greek philosophy, the dualism: matter is evil, spirit is good, asceticism and antinomianism groups, Anti-Semitism, etc. created a tense situation with the Church. Marcion of Sinope did not help either. Regarding Revelation. It is here that the dualism of the Gnostics shows its influence since the main reason for a problem with The Chiliasm found in Revelation 20:1-6. The fact that a internecine fight between two bishops in Alexandria did not help either (Apostle John or John the Elder as author).

    Your answer to Abidan Shah about how the Ecumenical Councils did not set canon lists was excellent. It is a little unsettling, at first, to find that it was a “grass roots” effort of the Church that determined the canon by the power of the Holy Spirit.

    Εν Χριστω,

    Rev. Bryant J. Williams III

    1. Thanks for your comment, Bryant. We do, of course, have a section on Eusebius in the book. I wish we could have covered more ground in the 30 minutes but I guess I’ll always want more. Blessings.

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