I only recently stumbled across information on the Muratorian Fragment and was surprised to find an article on it in the Feb 15th Watchtower.
EARLY CONFIRMATION OF THE BIBLE CANON
'Every line seems to have been written specifically to arouse the curiosity of those who have an interest in primitive christian history.' That is how and ancient document was described. Can you imagine which document?
It is one you may or may not have heard of - the Muratorian Fragment. In either case, you might wonder, 'What makes the Muratorian Fragment so special?' It is the oldest ixisting canon, or authoitative list of books, of the Christian Greek Scriptures.
You might take it for granted that certain books belong in the Bible. Yet, would it surprise you to know that there was a time when some doubted which individual books should be included? The Muratorian Fragment, or canon, sets out a list of writings considered to be inspired. As you can understand, the exact content of the Bible is of immense importance. So, what did that document reveal regarding the books that now make up the Christian Greek Scriptures? Well, consider first a bit of the background about the document.
The Muratorian Fragment is part of a manuscript codex of 76 parchment leaves, each measuring 27 by 17 centimeters. Ludovico Anotonio Muratori (1672 - 1750), a distinguished Italian historian, disvcovered it in the Ambrosian Library, Milan, Italy. Muratori published his find in 1740, this its name - Muratorian Fragment. It seems that the codex was produced int he eight centur in the ancient monastery of Bobbio, near Piacenza, northern Italy.It was moved to the Ambrosian Library at the beginning of the 17th century.
The Muratorian Fragment consists of 85 lines of text found on leaves 10 and 11 of the codex. The text is in Latin, eveidently copied by a scribe who was not very careful. But some of his errors have been identified by comparing it with the same text included in four 11th and 12 century manuscripts.
WHEN WAS IT WRITTEN?
You might wonder, though, when the information in the Muratorian Fragment was originally written. It seems that the original was composed in Greek many centuries before the Fragment text, which is a Latin translation of the Greek. Here is a clue that helps in dating the original. The Fragment mentions a non-Biblical book, the Shepherd, and states that a man named Hermas wrote it 'very recently, in our times, in the city of Rome.' Scholars date the final writing of Hermas' Shepherd between 140 and 155 C.C. Thus, you can see why the Greek language original of the Latin Muratorian Fragment is dated to between 170 and 200 C.E.
The direct and indirect references to Rome suggest that it could haveen composed in the city. But the identification of the author is debated. Clement of Alexandria, Melito of Sardis, and Polycrates of Ephesus have been suggested. Most scholars, however, point to Hipployturs, a prolific author who wrote in Greek and lived in Rome during the period in which the contents of the Muratorian Fragment were likely composed. While you might find that of passing interest, you probably want to know more about its contents that makes it so valuable.
INFORMATION IT CONTAINS
The text is not merely a list of the books of the Christian Greek Scriptures. It also comments on the books and their respective writers. If you read the text, you would see that the first lines of the manuscript are missing, and it also seems to end abruptly. It starts by mentioning the Gospel of Luke and the document states that the writes of this Bible book was a physician. (Colossians 4:14) It states that Luke's is the third Gospel so you can see that the missing initial part likely made reference to the Gopspels of Matthew and Mark.If that is your conclusion you would find support in the Muratorian Fragment, which says that the fourth Gospel is that of John.
The Frament confirms that the book of Acts of the Apostles was written by Luke for the 'most excellent Theophilus'. Then it goes on to list the letters of the apostle Paul to the Corinthians(tw), to the Ephesians, to the Phillippians, to the Colossians, to the Galatians, to the Thessalonians (two), to the Topmans, to Philemon, to Titus, and to Timothy (two) The letter of Jude and two letters of John are also mentioned as inspired books. The apostle John's first letter was already alluded to, along with his Gospel. Apocalypse, or Revelation, concludes the list of the books considered inspired.
It is significant that the Fragment mentions an Apocalyspe of Peter but states that some felt that it should not be read by christians. The writer warns that counterfeit writings were already circulating in his day. The Muratorian Fragment explains that these should not be accepted, 'for it is not fitting that gall be mixed with honey.' The document also mentions other texts that were not to be included among the holy writings. That was either because they were written after the apostolic perios, as was the 'Shepherd' of Hermas, or because they were written to support heresies.
You may have observed from the fore-going that the letter to the Hebrews, Peter's two letter, and that of James are not mentioned in this catalog of authentic Bible books. However, noting the wormanship of the scribe hwo copied the manuscript, Dr. Geoffrey Mark Hahneman observed that it is 'reasonable to sugges that the Fragment may have contained other references now lost, and that James and Hebres and 1Peter may have been among them.' - The Muratorian Fragment and the Development of the Canon.
The Muratorian Fragment thus confirms that most of the books now found in the Christian Greek Scriptures were already considered canonical in the second century C.E. Of course, the canonicity of the Bible books - that is, their right to be included in the divine library - does not depend on their being mentioned in a certain ancient list. What gives evidence that the Bible's books are the product of the holy spirit is their content. They all support the authorship of Jehovah Gopd and are in complete harmony. The harmony and balance of the 66 canonical books of the Bible testify to their unity and completeness. Thus, you do well to accept them for what they truthfully are, Jehovah's word of inspired truth, preserved uantil out day. 1Thess 2:12..
I have a couple of problems with this article.
The first is the total lack of mention of the Catholic Church and its role in deciding the Biblical Canon.
The picutre in the mag of Ludovico Antonio Muratori, is that of a Catholic Priest and apart from the mention of the codex being produced in the eighth century in the ancient monastery of Bobbio, nothing else of Catholocism and its meetings to decide what to include in the NT, is mentioned.
Another problem is that it assumes that Matthew and Mark are the two missing books, and makes nothing of the manuscript ending abruptly. Were there any other books? It also, despite nothing being missing in the middle assumes that Hebrews, James and 1 Peter are the books that must be included.
I'm sure that those of you who know far, far more than I do about the Muratorian Fragment will be able to see far more discrepancies in this article than I can.
I Also don't like the final sentence which insists that the Biblical canon must be correct.
Any thoughts any one?