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Post Paul's Letters and Gospels
Created by John Eipper on 04/28/17 12:48 PM

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Paul's Letters and Gospels (Enrique Torner, USA, 04/28/17 12:48 pm)

In response to David Pike (27 April), the chronology of Paul's letters and the Gospels is something I can easily give.

Most scholars agree on the following chronology: Paul's letters were written first, in the 50s AD; Mark's Gospel came next in 65-70 AD; Matthew's and Luke's came next in 80-85 AD; John's came last, in 90-95 AD. The non-canonical Gospels were dated to the 2nd and 3rd centuries AD, and even later. However, we don't have any of the original manuscripts, but only copies of copies of them. The earliest manuscript we have found dates 125-140 AD, on papyrus in codex form (like a book): P52, which means that it was the 52nd NT manuscript that was catalogued. Starting in the 4th century, scribes started copying documents on parchment. The first complete book of the NT on any surviving manuscript dates to the end of the 3rd century; the first complete copy of the NT dates to the 4th century.

Of note, of the thousands of ancient copies of the NT that are still extant, most date from the Middle Ages. If anybody is interested in Bible history (canonical and non-canonical), the Great Courses company has several fantastic courses on this subject offered by outstanding Bible scholars, like Bart D. Ehrman and Luke Timothy Johnson, among others. I have listened to several, and they are all fascinating.

JE comments:  This is probably a softball question, but here goes:  If Mark is the older Gospel, how did Matthew come to be placed first?


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  • Matthew, Mark...or Mark, Matthew? (Enrique Torner, USA 04/30/17 5:23 AM)
    John E asked how, being Mark the earliest Gospel, it is not the first book in the New Testament, but the second, right after Matthew. The answer rests in the process through which the NT canon was formed. I explained the whole process on WAIS some time ago. The first writer known to us who listed exactly the 27 books which traditionally make up the NT was Athanasius, bishop of Alexandria. In AD 367, in his 39th festal letter, Athanasius includes the list of canonical books of the Old and New Testaments that we have today, though not in the same order we have them today. Here is a link to an article that explains the whole process:

    http://www.christianitytoday.com/history/issues/issue-28/367-athanasius-defines-new-testament.html


    Interestingly, it was not until 30-40 years later (397-407 AD) that somebody referred to the whole Bible as "ta biblia" (in transliterated Greek, the books): Chrysostom, "John of the Golden Mouth." The order of the books, however, was not set until Jerome's revised Vulgate Bible (in Latin) appeared in 383 AD. The canon of the NT was finally fixed. And Matthew was placed before Mark! John, if you want to know why Jerome placed Matthew ahead of Mark, you'll have to ask him, because I couldn't find the reason behind it!


    JE comments:  Thank you, Enrique.  Jerome would make an outstanding WAISer.  (!)  Seriously now, was there any Church Father who exercised more direct influence on Christianity than St Jerome?


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    • Who Was the Most Influential Church Father? (Robert Whealey, USA 05/02/17 4:41 AM)
      To answer John E's question (30 April), most scholars would put the Bishop of Hippo and his book the City of God. He was also St. Augustine.

      St. Augustine has been far more influential than St. Jerome. St. Augustine is worshiped by the Protestants and Catholics and greatly influenced the Protestant Reformation. The Protestants rejected St. Thomas Aquinas as a Scholastic.


      JE comments:  Augustine is remembered as the founding theorist of predestination, which became a central tenet of Calvinism.  As for "influential," we must also consider Martin Luther, who impacted Catholicism nearly as much as his own Protestant movement.


      A red-letter anniversary is upon us in less than six months:  Luther's 95 Theses of 31 October 1517.


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