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felt to be necessary that real Christians should be more closely and more intimately united, and from the endeavor consequently made sprang the so-called Catholic, i. e. universal church. The teachers of the church, as well as the laity, agreed together in the avowal of certain doctrines, which afterwards formed their creed, or the so-called apostolic symbol, because in them the true apostolic doctrines were opposed to heresies. Thus it became practicable to set firm bounds to the tide of corruption ; and thus the various sects were gradually suppressed by the preponderant influence of the universal church. Still some of them lasted down to the 5th and 6th centuries.
The sifting of the various christian writings demands a more careful consideration. It was remarked above that edifying productions of estimable fathers, e. g. Clement of Rome, Hermas and others, were publicly read along with those of the apostles. Still, however profitable these writings might be, the bishops of the catholic church correctly felt that they could be of no service against heretics, as they allowed them no weight. Since, however, they commonly acknowledged the writings of the apostles, these and these alone could be appealed to in confutation of them. All such writings, therefore, as were allowed to be the compositions of other authors were first separated from the rest. If this had not been done, it would have remained uncertain in all subsequent time what books were properly to be regarded as pure sources of apostolic doctrine ; and at the time of the Reformation it would not have been so easy to restore the true uncorrupted doctrine of Christ by means of the Scriptures, as it was, from the circumstance that the genuine Scriptures were possessed in a separate, fixed collection. Now, in the endeavor to gather the genuine apostolic writings together by themselves, some were very readily distinguished from the rest as true apostolic productions. These were called úniversally-admitted writings; in Greek, Homolegomena. Among these were reckoned the four gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John ; the Acts of the apostles ; the epistles of the apostle Paul to the Romans, Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Thessalonians, to Timothy, Titus, and Philemon ; and, lastly, the two epistles of John and Peter, i. e. only the first and largest of both apostles. Among these writings, it is true, there appear two which were not composed by apostles, i. e. by members of the first circle of twelve men which our Lord Jesus gathered about him. (It is to be ob
served that Paul ranked with these in authority, partly because of his immediate call by the Lord (Acts ix), and partly on account of his extended and blessed labors in behalf of the church.) We mean the gospel of Mark, and the work of Luke, for Luke's Gospel and his Acts of the apostles do but make two halves of the same work, as is plain from the commencement of the Acts. There was no scruple on the part of the catholic church to class these two works of assistants of the apostles with those really apostolic, because both wrote under the influence and approval of apostles. According to the unanimous account of the most ancient fathers, Mark wrote under the guidance of Peter, and Luke under that of Paul; so that Mark was regarded as the Petrine, and Luke as the Pauline gospel. These universallyreceived writings of the apostles were divided into two collections. First, the four gospels by themselves formed a collection called the gospel. For, although it contained four narratives of our Lord's life, they were not regarded as different writings, but only as different aspects or, so to speak, sides of one and the same work. Hence an ancient father, Irenaeus, bishop of Lyons in France, terms the four gospels the one four-formed or four-sided gospel. The other writings constituted a second collection, which was termed the apostle, or the preaching of the apostle. Probably the name took its rise from the fact, that at first the epistles of Paul alone were collected together, and he was called the apostle by way of eminence, especially in Europe, on account of his active labors. To this collection of Pauline epistles the Acts of the apostles was added subsequently, because it formed as it were an introduction to the epistles, containing an account of Paul's travels and labors in the vineyard of our Lord. Later still were also added the two larger epistles of John and Peter,
Besides these generally admitted writings, there were others, which were indeed regarded by many as apostolic, but as to which some estimable persons entertained doubts, viz. the second and third epistles of John, the second epistle of Peter, the epistles of James and Jude, the epistle to the Hebrews, and John's Apocalypse. Hence these were termed disputed writings; in Greek, Antilegome na. It was not till the close of the second, or commencement of the third century, that most of the fathers of the catholic church became united in believing the genuineness and apostolic origin of all these writings excepting the epistle to the Hebrews and the Apocalypse. A third
small collection was now formed of these epistles, and into it were transferred the two larger epistles of John and Peter, which were at first contained in the second collection. Consequently the third comprised seven epistles, which were called the seven catholic, i. e. universally-admitted epistles, in contradistinction from the various rejected writings. There now remained, therefore, only the epistle to the Hebrews and the Revelation of John. In regard to the epistle, as has been already mentioned, no doubt was entertained as to its genuineness; the only controversy was, whether Paul was its author or not. At last the opinion that it was Pauline prevailed, and it was introduced into the collection of Pauline epistles; though, as the collection was already made up, it was placed at the end, after the small epistle to Philemon. In the Lutheran version of the Bible, however, the epistle obtained another place, viz. between the third epistle of John and the epistle of James, for reasons which will be stated hereafter. The whole question, therefore, in regard to the epistle to the Hebrews was of little consequence; for, if Paul did not write it, it is certain that the author wrote under his guidance (as will be shown more at length in the sequel), and the case is the same with this epistle as with the gospels of Mark and Luke. It is otherwise, however, with the history of the Apocalypse, which also will be particularly related hereafter. Although it has the oldest and most trustworthy witnesses in its behalf, indeed beyond most of the writings of antiquity, it still early met with numerous assailants, on account of its contents. True, many did not exactly regard it as spurious ; they only maintained that it was written, not by John the evangelist, bút by another man of less note, bearing the
Others, however, felt such excessive dislike towards the book that they declared it must have been composed by the worst heretics. Yet here, too, truth fortunately obtained the victory, and the genuine apostolic character of this elevated production of prophetic inspiration was acknowledged. As the three smaller collections were made up, nothing remained but to place it at the end of all
. This was precisely the position to which the Apocalypse belonged; for, considering the Gospels to be, as it were, the root of the tree of life exhibited in the whole New Testament, and the Epistles as the branches and blossoms, then the Apocalypse is the fully ripened fruit. It contains a picture of the development of God's church down
to the end of time, and therefore forms the close of the Bible as properly as Genesis forms its commencement.
In order that the various writings and small collections might be permanently united, the smaller divisions were entirely given up in the fourth century, and thenceforward there was but one collection, containing all the New Testament writings. A decisive decree on this point was issued by a council held in the year 393 at Hippo, now Bona, in Africa. In itself considered, this union of the smaller collections into a single large one is of no consequence, and hence, too, it is of none that it took place at so late a period; for, as early as during the third century and the commencement of the fourth, there was entire unanimity in regard to all essential questions concerning the books of the New Testament, as the following history of them will evince. Still there was this advantage arising from the union of the apostolic writings into one body, viz. that they were in a more safe and determinate form, and might now be placed with the Old Testament as the second part of Holy Writ.
The Collection of the Gospels.
Of the three smaller collections of the writings of the New Testament, which, as we have before stated, were in use in the ancient church, none can be traced further back than that of the gospels. We find so many and so weighty testimonies in its behalf
, that it would seem as though Providence desired this palladium of the church to be in a special manner secure against all attacks. Not only is it the case that some of the most ancient fathers testify to its existence, as e. g. Tertullian, Clem
of Alexandria, Irenaeus, Justin Martyr (all of whom lived in the second century after Christ, and were preceded only by the so-called apostolic fathers); but, moreover, the witnesses in its behalf are from all parts of the ancient church. Turtullian lived in Carthage ; Clement in Egypt; Irenaeus was born in Asia Minor, and became bishop of Lyons in France ; Justin Martyr was born in Palestine (in Flavia Neapolis, otherwise called Sichem), but taught in Rome. Thus we have testimo
nies in favor of the collection of the gospels from all the chief
It is true this man did not live till about 200 years after the birth of Christ (we do not know the precise period); but it is notwithstanding a decisive evidence of the general diffusion and acknowledgment of the gospels throughout the church, that they are cited and assailed by pagan opponents as the official sources of the christian doctrine. For, had Celsus been aware that Christians themselves did not acknowledge Vol. IX. No. 25.
fended by Origen.