Chapter Four
New Testament Canon

The Old Covenant was not complete because the people were afraid to hear all the commandments of God.  Soon they realized that they cannot stand the voice of the Lord and asked for an intermediary.  That intermediary was for a time Moses.  But Moses was not enough.

Dt.18:15-19  "This is what you yourselves asked of the Lord your God at Horeb on the day of the Assembly. 'Do not let me hear again' you said, 'the voice of the Lord my God, nor look any longer on this great fire, or I shall die'; and God said to me, 'All they have spoken is well said. I will raise up a prophet like yourself for them from their own brothers; I will put my words into his mouth and he shall tell them all I command him to say."

 Hence a fuller revelation became necessary and that required God to appear in person to talk to  the whole world in person.  The entire Hebrew religion was built on the promise of the appearance of this holy intermediary defined at Sinai.

 Jn.3:31-34. He who comes from above is above all others. He who is born of the earth is earthly himself and speaks in an earthly way. He who comes from heaven...speaks God's own words."

 Just as Old Testament authority rely on the objective direct revelation of God to a nation,  New Testament authority flows from the objective direct revelation of God to man in Christ Jesus.  This was a more fuller, final and objective revelation.  Validity of all New Testament Scripture comes from what is given by Jesus directly.  It was handed down over a long period of three and half years in contrast to a few weeks at Sinai.  It was once and for all delivered to the disciples. 

 Jesus himself did not write any documents.  The basic scriptural authority therefore comes from the primary witnesses and disciples whom Jesus called and appointed – the Apostles.  During the Apostolic Era the Apostles taught the doctrine.  Beyond the Apostles there were other witnesses and disciples.  Beyond the Apostolic period the faith was handed down through discipling through the ages.  The Holy Spirit which was given only to the select and for a particular purpose  and for a time in the Old Testament period was now replaced with the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit within the believers.  This provided a permanent Prophetic office for every believer.  But the test of the prophets are to be adhered to.  Every prophecy must be still validated by the faith once delivered to the saints.

 This concept of scripture as dependent on object direct revelation of God is very critical.  Without that truth will be defined either by the churches or by saints or by individuals.  We will be left with a sinking sand foundation.  Apparently I have not seen this apriori stated clearly anywhere.  I feel that it is important to emphasize this.  It is the not the beginning nor foundation that is shaky, but the trustworthiness of the transmission and the scribes.



Apostles were the select who were appointed as the deposit of New Testament Revelations.

 Act 2:41  So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.

Act 2:42  And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.

 2Pe 3:1  This is now the second letter that I have written to you, beloved, and in both of them I have aroused your sincere mind by way of reminder;

2Pe 3:2  that you should remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through the apostles.

Jud 1:17  But you must remember, beloved, the predictions of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ;

Apostolic teachings were received as the word of God
Th 2:13  And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believer

Paul was also considered an Apostle and was Accepted as such by the people and also the other Apostles.  Peter actually equated Paul's letters with "Scripture" (2 Pe 3:15-16) and people received his words as the Word of God  (1 Th 2:13;  1 Co 14:37)  Paul's letters were circulated among the churches as a means of instruction- Co 4:16

 Paul quoted the gospel of Luke as Scripture - 1 Ti 5:18; cf. Lk 10:7

Thus all professing Christians accept the 27 books of the New Testament as canonical. 

But there are other books supposedly written by the apostles which are not accepted. 


 These were not written by the Apsotles.   Most of these were written in the name of some well known Apostle or authority by the Gnostics and other Christian cults of the period.  It is therefore classed as “False Writings”

There are a large number of such writings  amounting to over 280. The more well-known of these are:

         a. The Gospel of Thomas

         b. The Gospel of Peter

         c. The Gospel of Hebrews

         d. The Protevangelium of James

Except as a document illustrating the period their value is limited.  Most of these are Gnostic writings containing exaggerated and mythical religious folklore, while there are a few written by well meaning believers in an attempt to glorify the faith using fraudulent means.  Both these tendencies are present even today and such writings still appear.


These are books written after the time of Christ which were accepted at first by some in the church and appeared at times in collections and translations of  Scripture.  However they never enjoyed acceptance by the Church in general

A complete index of the NT Apocrypha can be found in the following site and you can read them there.

These can be classified into four groups:

You can read most of  them also in the following links:


  1. The Infancy Gospel of Thomas [Greek Text A]

  2. The Infancy Gospel of Thomas [Greek Text B]

  3. The Infancy Gospel of Thomas [Latin Text]

  4. A 5th Century Compilation of the Thomas Texts

  5. An Arabic Infancy Gospel

  6. The Gospel of James

  7. The Gospel of the Nativity of Mary

  8. The Gospel of Mary [Magdalene]

  9. The Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew

  10. The Gospel of Nicodemus [Acts of Pilate]

  11. The Gospel of Bartholomew

  12. The Gospel of Peter

  13. The Gospel of Thomas

  14. The Gospel of Philip

  15. The Gospel of the Lord [by Marcion]

  16. The Secret Gospel of Mark

New Testament Acts

  1. The Acts of Andrew 

  2. The Acts and Martyrdom of Andrew 

  3. The Acts of Andrew and Matthew 

  4. The Acts of Barnabas 

  5. Martyrdom of Bartholomew 

  6. The Acts of John 

  7. The Mystery of the Cross-Excerpt from the Acts of John 

  8. The Acts of John the Theologian 

  9. The History of Joseph the Carpenter 

  10. The Book of John Concerning the Death of Mary 

  11. The Passing of Mary 

  12. The Acts and Martyrdom of Matthew 

  13. The Martyrdom of Matthew 

  14. The Acts of Paul 

  15. The Acts of Paul and Thecla 

  16. The Acts of Peter 

  17. The Acts of Peter and Andrew 

  18. The Acts of Peter and Paul 

  19. The Acts of Peter and the Twelve Apostles 

  20. The Acts of Philip 

  21. The Report of Pontius Pilate to Tiberius

  22. The Giving Up of Pontius Pilate 

  23. The Death of Pilate 

  24. The Acts of Thaddaeus 

  25. The Acts of Thomas 

  26. The Book of Thomas the Contender 

  27. The Consummation of Thomas  


  1. The Teachings of Addeus the Apostle 

  2. The Epistle of the Apostles 

  3. Community Rule

  4. The Apocryphon of James

  5. The Correspondence of Jesus and Abgar 

  6. The Sophia of Jesus Christ 

  7. John the Evangelist 

  8. The Apocryphon of John 

  9. The Narrative of Joseph of Arimathaea 

  10. The Epistle to the Laodiceans 

  11. The Correspondence of Paul and Seneca 

  12. The Prayer of the Apostle Paul 

  13. The Letter of Peter to Philip 

  14. The Letter of Pontius Pilate to the Roman Emperor 

  15. The Report of Pilate to Caesar 

  16. The Report of Pilate to Tiberius 

  17. Excerpts from Pistis Sophia 

  18. The Avenging of the Saviour 

  19. The Three Steles of Seth 

  20. The Book of Thomas the Contender   

Apocryphal Apocalypse

  1. The Apocalypse of Adam

  2. The Revelation of Esdras

  3. The First Apocalypse of James

  4. The Second Apocalypse of James

  5. The Revelation of John the Theologian

  6. The Revelation of Moses

  7. The Apocalypse of Paul

  8. Fragments-The Apocalypse of Paul

  9. The Revelation of Paul

  10. The Apocalypse of Peter

  11. The Vision of Paul

  12. The Revelation of Peter

  13. Fragments-The Apocalypse of Peter

The following site also gives the links.  This site also gives the approximate date of composition of the books:

The numbers on the left are for an estimated range of dating.
30-60 Passion Narrative
40-80 Lost Sayings Gospel Q
50-60 1 Thessalonians
50-60 Philippians
50-60 Galatians
50-60 1 Corinthians
50-60 2 Corinthians
50-60 Romans
50-60 Philemon
50-80 Colossians
50-90 Signs Gospel
50-95 Book of Hebrews
50-120 Didache
50-140 Gospel of Thomas
50-140 Oxyrhynchus 1224 Gospel
50-200 Sophia of Jesus Christ
65-80 Gospel of Mark
70-100 Epistle of James
70-120 Egerton Gospel
70-160 Gospel of Peter
70-160 Secret Mark
70-200 Fayyum Fragment
70-200 Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs
73-200 Mara Bar Serapion
80-100 2 Thessalonians
80-100 Ephesians
80-100 Gospel of Matthew
80-110 1 Peter
80-120 Epistle of Barnabas
80-130 Gospel of Luke
80-130 Acts of the Apostles
80-140 1 Clement
80-150 Gospel of the Egyptians
80-150 Gospel of the Hebrews
80-250 Christian Sibyllines
90-95 Apocalypse of John
90-120 Gospel of John
90-120 1 John
90-120 2 John
90-120 3 John
90-120 Epistle of Jude
93 Flavius Josephus
100-150 1 Timothy
100-150 2 Timothy
100-150 Titus
100-150 Apocalypse of Peter
100-150 Secret Book of James
100-150 Preaching of Peter
100-160 Gospel of the Ebionites
100-160 Gospel of the Nazoreans
100-160 Shepherd of Hermas
100-160 2 Peter
100-200 Odes of Solomon
101-220 Book of Elchasai
105-115 Ignatius of Antioch
110-140 Polycarp to the Philippians
110-140 Papias
110-160 Oxyrhynchus 840 Gospel
110-160 Traditions of Matthias
111-112 Pliny the Younger
115 Suetonius
115 Tacitus
120-130 Quadratus of Athens
120-130 Apology of Aristides
120-140 Basilides
120-140 Naassene Fragment
120-160 Valentinus
120-180 Apocryphon of John
120-180 Gospel of Mary
120-180 Dialogue of the Savior
120-180 Gospel of the Savior
120-180 2nd Apocalypse of James
120-180 Trimorphic Protennoia
130-140 Marcion
130-150 Aristo of Pella
130-160 Epiphanes On Righteousness
130-160 Ophite Diagrams
130-160 2 Clement
130-170 Gospel of Judas
130-200 Epistle of Mathetes to Diognetus
140-150 Epistula Apostolorum  
140-160 Ptolemy
140-160 Isidore
140-170 Fronto
140-170 Infancy Gospel of James
140-170 Infancy Gospel of Thomas
140-180 Gospel of Truth
150-160 Martyrdom of Polycarp
150-160 Justin Martyr
150-180 Excerpts of Theodotus
150-180 Heracleon
150-200 Ascension of Isaiah
150-200 Acts of Peter
150-200 Acts of John
150-200 Acts of Paul
150-200 Acts of Andrew
150-225 Acts of Peter and the Twelve
150-225 Book of Thomas the Contender
150-250 Fifth and Sixth Books of Esra
150-300 Authoritative Teaching
150-300 Coptic Apocalypse of Paul
150-300 Discourse on the Eighth and Ninth
150-300 Melchizedek
150-400 Acts of Pilate
150-400 Anti-Marcionite Prologues
160-170 Tatian's Address to the Greeks
160-180 Claudius Apollinaris
160-180 Apelles
160-180 Julius Cassianus
160-250 Octavius of Minucius Felix
161-180 Acts of Carpus
165-175 Melito of Sardis
165-175 Hegesippus
165-175 Dionysius of Corinth
165-175 Lucian of Samosata
167 Marcus Aurelius
170-175 Diatessaron
170-200 Dura-Europos Gospel Harmony
170-200 Muratorian Canon
170-200 Treatise on the Resurrection
170-220 Letter of Peter to Philip
175-180 Athenagoras of Athens
175-185 Irenaeus of Lyons
175-185 Rhodon
175-185 Theophilus of Caesarea
175-190 Galen
178 Celsus
178 Letter from Vienna and Lyons
180 Passion of the Scillitan Martyrs
180-185 Theophilus of Antioch
180-185 Acts of Apollonius
180-220 Bardesanes
180-220 Kerygmata Petrou
180-230 Hippolytus of Rome
180-250 1st Apocalypse of James
180-250 Gospel of Philip
182-202 Clement of Alexandria
185-195 Maximus of Jerusalem
185-195 Polycrates of Ephesus
188-217 Talmud
189-199 Victor I
190-210 Pantaenus
193 Anonymous Anti-Montanist
193-216 Inscription of Abercius
197-220 Tertullian
200-210 Serapion of Antioch
200-210 Apollonius
200-220 Caius
200-220 Philostratus
200-225 Acts of Thomas
200-250 Didascalia
200-250 Books of Jeu
200-300 Pistis Sophia
200-300 Coptic Apocalypse of Peter
203 Acts of Perpetua and Felicitas
203-250 Origen

 Canons and Decrees of the Council of Trent


The Fourth Session

Celebrated on the eighth day of the month of April, in the year 1546.



Papal Arms

Decree Concerning the Canonical Scriptures


The sacred and holy, ecumenical, and general Synod of Trent,--lawfully assembled in the Holy Ghost, the Same three legates of the Apostolic See presiding therein,--keeping this always in view, that, errors being removed, the purity itself of the Gospel be preserved in the Church; which (Gospel), before promised through the prophets in the holy Scriptures, our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, first promulgated with His own mouth, and then commanded to be preached by His Apostles to every creature, as the fountain of all, both saving truth, and moral discipline; and seeing clearly that this truth and discipline are contained in the written books, and the unwritten traditions which, received by the Apostles from the mouth of Christ himself, or from the Apostles themselves, the Holy Ghost dictating, have come down even unto us, transmitted as it were from hand to hand; (the Synod) following the examples of the orthodox Fathers, receives and venerates with an equal affection of piety, and reverence, all the books both of the Old and of the New Testament--seeing that one God is the author of both --as also the said traditions, as well those appertaining to faith as to morals, as having been dictated, either by Christ's own word of mouth, or by the Holy Ghost, and preserved in the Catholic Church by a continuous succession.


And it has thought it meet that a list of the sacred books be inserted in this decree, lest a doubt may arise in any one's mind, which are the books that are received by this Synod. They are as set down here below:


Of the Old Testament: the five books of Moses, to wit, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy; Josue, Judges, Ruth, four books of Kings, two of Paralipomenon, the first book of Esdras, and the second which is entitled Nehemias; Tobias, Judith, Esther, Job, the Davidical Psalter, consisting of a hundred and fifty psalms; the Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, the Canticle of Canticles, Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, Isaias, Jeremias, with Baruch; Ezechiel, Daniel; the twelve minor prophets, to wit, Osee, Joel, Amos, Abdias, Jonas, Micheas, Nahum, Habacuc, Sophonias, Aggaeus, Zacharias, Malachias; two books of the Machabees, the first and the second.


Of the New Testament: the four Gospels, according to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John; the Acts of the Apostles written by Luke the Evangelist; fourteen epistles of Paul the apostle, (one) to the Romans, two to the Corinthians, (one) to the Galatians, to the Ephesians, to the Philippians, to the Colossians, two to the Thessalonians, two to Timothy, (one) to Titus, to Philemon, to the Hebrews; two of Peter the apostle, three of John the apostle, one of the apostle James, one of Jude the apostle, and the Apocalypse of John the apostle.


But if any one receive not, as sacred and canonical, the said books entire with all their parts, as they have been used to be read in the Catholic Church, and as they are contained in the old Latin vulgate edition; and knowingly and deliberately contemn the traditions aforesaid; let him be anathema. Let all, therefore, understand, in what order, and in what manner, the said Synod, after having laid the foundation of the Confession of faith, will proceed, and what testimonies and authorities it will mainly use in confirming dogmas, and in restoring morals in the Church.


Decree Concerning the Edition and the Use of the Sacred Books


Moreover, the same sacred and holy Synod,--considering that no small utility may accrue to the Church of God, if it be made known which out of all the Latin editions, now in circulation, of the sacred books, is to be held as authentic,--ordains and declares, that the said old and vulgate edition, which, by the lengthened usage of so many years, has been approved of in the Church, be, in public lectures, disputations, sermons and expositions, held as authentic; and that no one is to dare, or presume to reject it under any pretext whatever.


Furthermore, in order to restrain petulant spirits, It decrees, that no one, relying on his own skill, shall,--in matters of faith, and of morals pertaining to the edification of Christian doctrine, --wresting the sacred Scripture to his own senses, presume to interpret the said sacred Scripture contrary to that sense which holy mother Church,--whose it is to judge of the true sense and interpretation of the holy Scriptures,--hath held and doth hold; or even contrary to the unanimous consent of the Fathers; even though such interpretations were never (intended) to be at any time published. Contraveners shall be made known by their Ordinaries, and be punished with the penalties by law established.


And wishing, as is just, to impose a restraint, in this matter, also on printers, who now without restraint,--thinking, that is, that whatsoever they please is allowed them,--print, without the license of ecclesiastical superiors, the said books of sacred Scripture, and the notes and comments upon them of all persons indifferently, with the press ofttimes unnamed, often even fictitious, and what is more grievous still, without the author's name; and also keep for indiscriminate sale books of this kind printed elsewhere; (this Synod) ordains and decrees, that, henceforth, the sacred Scripture, and especially the said old and vulgate edition, be printed in the most correct manner possible; and that it shall not be lawful for any one to print, or cause to be printed, any books whatever, on sacred matters, without the name of the author; nor to sell them in future, or even to keep them, unless they shall have been first examined, and approved of, by the Ordinary; under pain of the anathema and fine imposed in a canon of the last Council of Lateran: and, if they be Regulars, besides this examination and approval, they shall be bound to obtain a license also from their own superiors, who shall have examined the books according to the form of their own statutes. As to those who lend, or circulate them in manuscript, without their having been first examined, and approved of, they shall be subjected to the same penalties as printers: and they who shall have them in their possession or shall read them, shall, unless they discover the authors, be themselves regarded as the authors. And the said approbation of books of this kind shall be given in writing; and for this end it shall appear authentically at the beginning of the book, whether the book be written, or printed; and all this, that is, both the approbation and the examination, shall be done gratis, that so what ought to be approved, may be approved, and what ought to be condemned, may be condemned.


Besides the above, wishing to repress that temerity, by which the words and sentences of sacred Scripture are turned and twisted to all sorts of profane uses, to wit, to things scurrilous, fabulous, vain, to flatteries, detractions, superstitions, impious and diabolical incantations, sorceries, and defamatory libels; (the Synod) commands and enjoins, for the doing away with this kind of irreverence and contempt, and that no one may hence forth dare in any way to apply the words of sacred Scripture to these and such like purposes; that all men of this description, profaners and violators of the word of God, be by the bishops restrained by the penalties of law, and others of their own appointment.


See also