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The purpose of the following pages will be fulfilled if they serve to forward and complete the work accomplished by the histories of the Canon of the New Testament that already exist. The history of the New Testament is here only given up to the beginning of the third century; for at that time the New Canon was firmly established both in idea and form, and it acquired all the consequences of an unalterable entity. The changes which it still under-went, however important they were from the point of view of the extent and unification of the Canon, have had no consequences worth mentioning in connection with the history of the Church and of dogma. It is therefore appropriate, in the interests of clear thought, to treat the history of the Canon of the New Testament in two divisions; in the first division to describe the Origin of the New Testament, in the second its enlargement. Moreover, it is necessary—though this is a point that hitherto has been seldom taken into account—that the viconsequences that at once resulted from the new creation should receive due consideration as well as its causes and motives. For the origin of the New Testament is not a problem in the history of literature like the origin of the separate books of the Canon, but a problem of the history of cultus and dogma in the Church.

A. v. H.

BERLIN, 22nd May 1914.


Introduction xv

I. The Needs and Motive Forces that led to the Creation of the New Testament

  The five chief problems—

§ 1. How did the Church arrive at a second authoritative Canon in addition to the Old Testament?


A. What motives led to the creation of the New Testament?


(1) Supreme reverence for the words and teaching of Christ (“The Holy Scriptures and the Lord”), p. 7. (2) Supreme reverence for the history of Christ (“The Holy Scriptures and the Gospel”)—the synthesis of prophecy and fulfilment, p. 9. (3) The new Covenant and the desire for a fundamental document, p. 12. (4) Supreme reverence for what was orthodox and ancient (the motive of Catholic and Apostolic), p. 16.


B. Whence came the authority necessary for such a creation?


(1) Teachers from the beginning that were authoritative and inspired by the Spirit viii(“Apostles, Prophets, and Teachers”), p. 20. (2) The right of the assembled community to accept or reject books, P. 21. (3) The inward authority of Apostolic-Catholic writings that asserted itself automatically, p. 23.


C. How did the New Testament, assumed to be necessary in idea, come into actual existence?


(1) The existence of appropriate works, p. 26. (2) Public lection (also private), p. 26. (3) The importance of the example of Marcion and the Gnostics (the element of compulsion in the creation of the New Testament), p. 29. (4) The importance of the Montanist controversy, especially for the idea of the closing of the new Canon, p. 34. The result; relation to the Old Testament; the “ecclesiastical scriptures,” p. 40.


§ 2. Why is it that the New Testament also contains other books beside the Gospels, and appears as a compilation with two divisions (“Evangelium” and “Apostolus”)?


The New Testament had already taken up into itself the earliest tradition of the Church


A. The Apostles became, in a certain sense, equivalent to Christ. Estimation of St Paul; importance of the Acts of the Apostles


ixB. The attestation of the Revelation became as important as its content; even the Gospels come under the idea of the Apostolic. The new dominant note of the collection not “the Lord,” but “the Apostles”


C. The importance of the Canon of Marcion and of the Gnostics also for the division into two parts, especially for the prestige of the Pauline Epistles; their inward and outward Catholicity


The Catholic Epistles and the Acts; the central importance of the latter for the structure of the New Testament; the New Testament in its completion a work of reflection


§ 3. Why does the New Testament contain four Gospels and not only one?


The age and the significance of the canonical titles of the four Gospels


The time and place of the compilation (Asia Minor)


Tension between the Gospels and the compromise in the acceptance of four


The number four not originally intended to be final; against Jülicher


The same motive that led to the “Apostolus” prevented the unification of the four Gospels


§ 4. Why has only one Apocalypse been able to keep its place in the New Testament? Why not several—or none at all?


The Muratorian Fragment as starting-point


xThree Apocalypses originally in New Testament


The expulsion of Prophecy and the sovereignty of the Apostolic in the New Testament


How was it that the break with Prophecy was not necessarily felt as a breach with the past?


The expulsion of the Petrine Apocalypse and of Hermas


The dangerous situation of the Johannine Apocalypse


§ 5. Was the New Testament created consciously? and how did the Churches arrive at one common New Testament?


The New Testament must have been founded between A.D. 160 and 180, and in idea finally completed between A.D. 180 and 200


Structure, choice of books, and the titles of the collection show that in the last resort it is a conscious creation


The immediate forerunner of the New Testament is to be sought in the Churches lying on the line between Western Asia Minor and Rome


The fixing of the Canon as a collection of Apostolic-Catholic works took place in Rome


The testimony of the Muratorian Canon to this fact


Summary of results. The witness of Clement of Alexandria to the immediate forerunner of the New Testament


The reception of the Now Testament, and its completion in a collection of twenty-seven books at Alexandria


The victory of this New Testament


II. The Consequences of the Creation of the New Testament


§ 1. The New Testament immediately emancipated itself from the conditions of its origin and claimed to be regarded simply as a gift of the Holy Spirit. It held an independent position side by side with the Rule of Faith, it at once began to influence the development of doctrine, and it became in principle the final court of appeal for the Christian life


§ 2. The New Testament has added to the Revelation in History a second written proclamation of this Revelation, and has given it a position of superior authority


§ 3. The New Testament definitely protected the Old Testament as a book of the Church, but thrust it into a subordinate position, and thus introduced a wholesome complication into the conception of the Canon of Scripture


§ 4. The New Testament has preserved for us the most valuable portion of primitive Christian literature, yet at the same time it delivered the rest of the earliest works to oblivion and has limited the transmission of later works


§ 5. Though the New Testament brought to an end the production of authoritative Christian writings, yet it cleared the way for theological and also for ordinary Christian literary activity


xii§ 6. The New Testament obscured the true origin and the historical significance of the works which it contained, but on the other hand, by impelling men to study them, it brought into existence certain conditions favourable to the critical treatment and correct interpretation of these works


§ 7. The New Testament checked the imaginative creation of events in the scheme of Salvation whether freely or according to existing models, but it called forth, or at least encouraged the intellectual creation of facts in the sphere of theology and of a theological mythology


§ 8. The New Testament helped to demark a special period of Christian Revelation, and so in a certain sense to give Christians of later times an inferior status; yet it kept alive the ideals and claims of primitive Christianity


§ 9. The New Testament promoted and completed the fatal identification of the Word of the Lord and the Teaching of the Apostles; but because It raised Pauline Christianity to a place of high honour, it has introduced into the history of the Church a ferment rich in blessing


§ 10. In the New Testament the Catholic Church forged for herself a new weapon with which to ward off all heresy as un-Christian, but she has also found in it a court of control before which she has appeared ever increasingly in default


xiii§ 11. The New Testament has hindered the natural impulse to give to the content of Religion simple, clear, and logical expression, but on the other hand it has preserved Christian doctrine from becoming a mere philosophy of Religion



I. The Marcionite Prologues to the Pauline Epistles 165
II. Forerunners and Rivals of the New Testament 169
III. The Beginnings of the Conception of an “Instrumentum Novissimum,” the Hope for the “Evangelium Æternum”; the Public Lection, and the quasi-Canonical Recognition of the Stories of the Martyrs in the Church 184
IV. The Use of the New Testament in the Carthaginian (and Roman) Church at the Time of Tertullian 196
V. “Instrumentum” (“Instrumenta”) as a Name for the Bible 209
VI. A Short Statement and Criticism of the Results of Zahn’s Investigations into the Origin of the New Testament 218


The collection of writings Apostolic and Catholic (the New Testament), the Apostolic Rule of Faith, the Apostolic character assigned to the Bishops (dependent upon succession) mark the chief results of the inner development of Church history during the first two centuries. This conclusion, as modern text-books of the history of Church and dogma show, is to-day almost universally accepted. And yet, with all our excellent treatises on the history of the origin of the New Testament, and in spite of the far-reaching agreement of our scholars in just this province of research, it is still not superfluous to show how clearly and comprehensively the history of the Primitive Church has manifested itself in the leading principle, in the creation and compilation of the New Testament, and how vast and decisive, and, on the other hand, how various and even contradictory were the consequences of its appearance.11In my Lehrbuch der Dogmengeschichte (14, S. 372-399) I have given a sketch of the history of the origin of the New Testament from the standpoint of the history of Dogma. The object of the following pages is to give a more comprehensive and clear-cut discussion of the chief points in the story of the development, and of the motive forces at work, in connection with the general history of the Church, and to state more forcibly the consequences of the creation of the New Testament. Moreover, the question whether xviand to what extent the New Testament was consciously created has not yet been cleared up. Lastly, though it is firmly established that this collection of inspired writings is a remainder-product—for once upon a time everything that a Christian wrote for edification counted as inspired—yet there is still need of more rigorous investigation of the circumstances which necessarily led to restriction and choice.

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