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The Compilation of the New Testament

Ever wonder why there are four gospels instead of just one? Or ten? Why some gospels/epistles were included and others excluded? Why the New Testament was written in Greek when the characters of the NT were Aramaic speaking Jews? These questions will hopefully be answered on this page. On this page I'll list the more important Christian writers up until the fourth generation of Christians (300 CE, or the fourth century) which includes the First Concil of Nicaea.

This is the century in which the final canonization of the NT took place, and where the earliest NT writings are dated to via carbon dating. Beyond the fourth century, Christianity was the primary religion of the most powerful empire in the West, and asserted its religious hegemony and veracity by brute force, terrorism, temple destruction, and book burning - aspects of Roman ideology, not necessarily Christian ideology.

Flavius Josephus (c. 37 - c. 100 CE)

The first person that I'll mention in the creation of the New Testament is someone who had no hand whatsoever in the creation of the New Testament. My reasoning for doing this is because he had no hand in the creation of the NT when he should have. Josephus was a Jewish historian in the first century CE. He wrote about the history of the Jews for his Roman employers in his text Antiquities of the Jews. Josephus, in trying to write closer to what in the modern era we would call "objective history" wrote about all of the trials and tribulations of the Jewish people in Antiquities of the Jews and War of the Jews (describing the events leading up to the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70) up until 96 CE. More importantly, he wrote about the huge surge of messainic cults that appeared right before the First Jewish-Roman war 66 - 70 CE.

Josephus, in his book "Life" recounts how he investigated the multiple factions of Judaism when he was 16 (which would be around 53 CE):

The Life of Josephus, 2

"When I was sixteen years old, I decided to get experience with the various sects that are among us. These are three: as we have said many times, the first, that of the Pharisees, the second that of the Saduccees, the third, that of the Essenes. For I thought that in this way I would choose best, if I carefully examined them all. Therefore, submitting myself to strict training, I passed through the three groups."

But nowhere in his writings does he mention Christianity.

He does write about one instance of a false messiah who convinced some Samaritans to go to Mt. Gerizim with him where he would show them the supposed burial spot of Moses - and would use this knowledge to incense his followers to revolt against the Romans. He also writes about Theudas who proclaimed himself to be a prophet, and convinced a number of people that he could part the Jordan - much like Moses did in Exodus - and walk across it to safety. Josephus also writes about Judas the Gaulonite, who influenced Jews to fight the census of Quirinius (he actually calls this Judas' sect, with only 4,000 followers, a "fourth sect" of Judaism). Most importantly, Josephus even mentions that John the Baptist had pissed off Herod (book 18, chapter 5; a part quoted by Origen) and was killed by him. Josephus also writes pages about another Jesus character named Jesus the son of Sapphias (Life, 12) who rallies a few fishemen and poor people to start a rebellion, and also writes about another Jesus son of Ananias (War of the Jews 6.5.3) who ceaselessly preaches about the destruction of Jerusalem, is brought before the procurator of Judaea around 62 CE on charges of causing a ruckus in the Temple and of being possessed by something supernatural. This Jesus never says a word to the procurator in his own defense even after being whipped and tortured.

So, it would make sense that Josephus - in writing pages and pages about all of these other wannabe messiahs and Jewish cult leaders - would certainly mention Jesus and his unfailed claims to messiah-hood.

In a sense, this is correct. Josephus does mention Jesus... "twice". However, his only uncontested mention of "Jesus" is when he mentions "James, brother of Jesus, who was called the Christ".

The Antiquities of the Jews, Book 20, Chapter 9

Festus was now dead, and Albinus was put upon the road; so he assembled the sanhedrin of judges, and brought before them the brother of Jesus, who was called the Christ, whose name was James, and some others, (or some of his companions). And when he had formed an accusation against them as breakers of the law, he delivered them to be stoned.

Very few scholars question the authenticity of this passage. In another chapter, a "Jesus" is mentioned again, however, this is a highly contested chapter known as the "Testimonium Flavium", or "[Josephus] Flavius' Testimony". There is no set unanimous parsing of this text among scholars as far as which parts (if any) are legitimately Josephus', which parts (if not all) are later redactions by Eusebius or some later Christians.

Antiquities of the Jews, Book 18, Chapter 3.3

Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man; for he was a doer of wonderful works, a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews and many of the Gentiles. He was [the] Christ. And when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him; for he appeared to them alive again the third day; as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him. And the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct at this day

This part appears directly after Josephus is talking about Pilate and his ruthlessness as Prefect. However, considering that this Jesus is supposed to be the most important figure in Jewish history, giving him only one paragraph where Josephus devotes pages to other petty robbers and insurrectionists in his other works seems... odd. The problem is that Josephus was a Jew, not a Christian. He wouldn't have refered to Jesus as "[the] Christ"; that's how a Christian would describe Jesus. Not a Jew. "He drew over to him both many of the Jews and many of the Gentiles" is (at least according to the Gospels) factually incorrect - Jesus only preached to the Jews of first century Palestine.

Also, the passage is too good to be true; "if it be lawful to call him a man" implies that Josephus scarcely thought that Jesus was "human", which is another distinctly [Pauline] Christian argument from the 4th century. According to Jewish tradition, the Mosiach ("Christ" in Greek, and "Messiah" in English) is a regular human being, not a god or part of God in any way (see The Jewish Messiah). "[H]e appeared to them alive again the third day; as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him" is also distinctly professing the truth of Christian theology from a Jew who ostensibly wasn't a Christian. Note that these examples are all central arguments about Christianity at the time of Eusebius, Constantine I, and the Council of Nicaea. See Justin Martyr and Origen. Taking this paragraph out of Josephus' work, and it reads flawlessly without any seeming interruption.

Josephus also never writes about the thousands that Jesus fed with a single loaf of bread, or the thousands of converts and resurrections described in Acts of the Apostles even though such a feat would surely catch his eye both as a citizen of and as a historian of first century Judaism (no other gentile historian of that time period mentions such events either).

The following is divided up into five sections: writings that I think influenced Christian writings, writings by the "first generation" (the original writings), and then writings by subsequent generations who might have added or modified the first generation's writings up until the First Council of Nicaea, where the earliest extant Christian writings were written.

This is absolutely critical to point out: each of these generations of writers had their own personal and theological biases and could have potentially rewritten prior text to suit their agenda. One example, Martin Luther who translated the Greek and Hebrew Bible into German (some might argue this act standardized the German language itself) inserted the word "alone" into his German version of Romans 3:28 to support his own personal theological agenda of Sola Fide or salvation by "faith alone". The word "alone" doesn't exist in the Greek version of Romans 3:28. Keep in mind that Martin Luther is also the man who wrote the diatribe "On Jews And Their Lies".

Why this has to be done in the first place is obvious: Jesus himself didn't write anything down, or had anything dictated. According to The Jesus Seminar, Jesus was an end-of-times preacher in first century Palestine/Jerusalem who expressed a deep concern for demolishing idolatry and having a personal relationship with God, because the world was going to end in a couple of years. More than likely, the reason why he didn't write anything down or had anything written down was because there was no point - the world was going to end in a couple of years anyway.

  1. Proto Christian Writers
  2. First Generation of Writers
  3. Second Generation of Writers
  4. Third Generation of Writers
  5. Fourth Generation of Writers

most information from wikipedia

Proto Christian Writers

Plato (c. 424 BCE - c. 348 BCE)

I only put Plato here because Plato's writings - around 300 BCE - were massively influential to Greek thought, philosophy, and theology. The early Christian writers - at least, those who wrote the gospels and Acts - were Greek speaking Gentiles. These Greeks would have obviously been influenced by Plato's writings. Plato stressed the importance of removing emphasis on the material world and striving towards philosophia. He also stressed the importance of the division of mind and matter, of "Form" (the perfect idea) giving birth to the material, and helped develop the idea of the Logos through his allegory of The Cave.

The Septuagint, or "LXX" (3rd - 1st centuries BCE)

The word "Septuaginta" means "seventy" in Latin and derives from a tradition that seventy (or seventy-two) Jewish scholars translated the Pentateuch (Torah) from Hebrew into Greek for Ptolemy II Philadelphus, 285-246 BC. The Septuagint was held in great respect in ancient times; Philo and Josephus ascribed divine inspiration to its authors.

When Martin Luther translated the Bible into his native tongue - German - it brought the Bible to the common person, letting anyone who could read the ability to read it without depending on the preisthood for translations, ushering in the Protestant Revolution. The same thing happened with the LXX - Jews who could only read Greek were allowed to read the Torah without depending on the Pharisees or other Hebrew educated Jews for translations. The LXX also made Judaism mainstream. It meant Jewish thought could be teased against Plato and Homer etc. and its influence could spread. Without "it" (there were many variations, all called "Septuagint"), Judaism would have remained an insular national cult.

This allowed any gentile Greek who could read and get their hands on a LXX to perform exegesis and midrash on the Hebrew Bible and fuse it with their own philosophies (a very key point), making up stories based on LXX characters. Later, when the writers of the gospels quote the Torah, they're not quoting the Hebrew version, they're quoting the LXX... "mistranslations" and all. It's not so much that there were "mistranslations", it's just that languages never have a one-to-one relationship. Every reference to Old Testament texts in the NT does so by quoting the LXX. None of them quote the actual Hebrew version.

For example, in Hebrew, there are two words for "lord" - Adonai and adoni. Adonai is "LORD" and adoni is "lord"; the first refers to YHWH only, and the second is simply a human title. This is because Jews, if they're reading from the Hebrew Bible and come across YHWH (יהוה), they'll say "LORD" - Adonai (or they'll say "HaShem" - the Name). Greek only has one word for "lord" - κύριος (kyrios). This is a critical point here - the tetragrammaton (יהוה or YHWH - Yahweh) is never written in the LXX. The writers of the gospels and Paul wrote in Greek and used the LXX for their arguments. This means that they couldn't read Hebrew and thus were unaware of the difference between the two "lords" in Hebrew, and unaware of any being named YHWH. I reiterate - Paul, James, Jude, John, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and for some reason Jesus himself were all unaware of a being named YHWH. All references to YHWH in the LXX use either "kyrios" (lord) or "theos" (god), so the writers of the NT only used those words as well. The most glaring example ofthis confusion by the gospel writers is Psalm 110 (NIV):
"The LORD says to my Lord: "Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet."

In Hebrew, the first LORD is "Adonai", יהוה. The second "lord" is "adoni", and in this case is referring to a human... King David (the Psalm begins with "a psalm for/about King David". "My lord" = King David). Adoni is never used for a divine entity, only for humans. The second "lord" is, in English, improperly capitalized (you can read the actual Hebrew here and see that YHWH only appears one time in verse 1, not twice; Hebrew reads from right to left). However, this distinction between the two types of "lord" doesn't exist in Greek or in the LXX. So when, for example, the writer of Matthew wrote 22:41-44 and quotes Psalm 110, he thinks that both lords have the same divine "lord" status. Both "lords" are gods. Thus you get the inaccurate idea that the "lord / adoni", a god (in Matthew's case, Jesus) sits at the right hand of the "lord" (YHWH). A Pharisee (trained in Hebrew) would have pointed out the two very different types of "lords" immediately, and not sulked away with their tail between their legs. This also seems to imply that Jesus spoke Greek instead of Hebrew or Aramaic, which doesn't make sense.

Paul makes the same "mistake" meshing the two different "lords" in Romans 10:9 - 13 (and elsewhere):
9 That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
12 For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him,
13 for, "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved."

Paul is using Joel 2:32 as a proof text for the divinity of Jesus. His argument only makes sense if Joel 2:32 reads "lord" - as does the LXX. If Paul had Rabbinic training (or could read Hebrew) then he would certainly know that Joel did not write "lord" (adoni). He actually wrote יהוה. Joel never once writes the word "lord". Paul consistently follows this example, where he quotes the OT and infers that Jesus (as "the lord") made the quote or is the referent for the quote.

To try expressing this another way, whenever the phrase "YHWH El" or "YHWH Elohim" appears, Hebrew literate Jews would read it "the LORD God". Sometimes it's written as YHWH El (the LORD God), sometimes just YHWH (the LORD). If someone can't read Hebrew, they might think that the singular "lord" (kyrios) is a different being than the "lord god" (κύριος θεός / kyrios theos), but seems to have similar "powers" as the "LORD God". Since non-Hebrew literate readers of the LXX find "lord" and a different "lord god" they might think that these are two different beings - yet Hebrew literate readers would recognize that YHWH (Adonai - Lord) is the same being, regardless of the qualifier "God". Notice in Joel 2:32 that "the LORD God" is never mentioned. Just the LORD. Of course, Paul couldn't read Hebrew, so he didn't know that this "LORD" character is YHWH, and not some other "LORD" (in Paul's case, Jesus).

As a slide side note, however, the gospel of John implies that YHWH's name is "I Am", which he got from Exodus 3:14. It's still not quite, since "I am" in Hebrew is ehyeh and not yahweh, though they do both share the name "YH". John uses multiple "I am" statements to imply that Jesus is God - but he's still unaware of the name YHWH since that would have been substituted in the LXX with "lord" and YHWH would not be written in the LXX as "I am".

Anyway, For this reason alone, the vast majority of converts to Christianity were gentile Greeks ("ger toshav") and non-Hebrew literate Jews. Conversions of Hebrew-literate Jews was almost non-existent. For Jews today, these are some of the same reasons that they give for not being Christians - that Christians don't understand the language nuances of Hebrew, and don't understand what the Jewish Messiah is actually supposed to do. Why would Christians refer to Jesus by the Greek name "Jesus" instead of the Hebrew name "Joshua"? Or call themselves the Greek word "Christian"? Why the lack of Hebrew words in Christian literature? All of the evidence indicates that the early Christians didn't understand Hebrew and "exploited" the ignorance of Hebrew on all of their proselytes.

It seems as though if it weren't for the LXX, there would be no Christianity - other than the Ebionites.

Jews have not used the LXX in worship or religious study since the second century CE. Starting approximately in the 2nd century CE, several factors led most Jews to abandon use of the LXX. The earliest gentile Christians of necessity used the LXX, as it was at the time the only Greek version of the Bible, and most, if not all, of these early non-Jewish Christians could not read Hebrew. The association of the LXX with a rival religion may have rendered it suspect in the eyes of the newer generation of Jews and Jewish scholars.

Gabriel's Revelation / Simon son of Joseph (died 4 BCE)

"Gabriel's Revelation" is a three foot tall stone tablet with 87 lines of Hebrew text written in ink, containing a collection of short prophecies written in the first person and dated to the late first century BCE. One of the stories allegedly tells of a man who was killed by the Romans and resurrected in three days. This man is generally agreed to be Simon son of Joseph, who was a former slave of Herod the Great. He rebelled and was viewed as a messiah figure and was killed by the Romans circa 4 BCE.

Philo of Alexandria (20 BCE - 50 CE)

Philo was a Hellenized Jew who fused Greek philosophy with Jewish theology. The Logos was necessary, he taught, because God cannot come into contact with matter. Philo calls the Logos (word or reason) the firstborn of god's creation, the son of god, a mediator between humans and god, the mind of god (compare with 1 Cor 2:16), and a heavenly mediator of sins. Philo established schools in Alexandria, Egypt where Cerinthus, an Ebionite and proto-Gnostic, was a student.

Some Logos quotes from Philo:

And the Father who created the universe has given to his archangelic and most ancient Word a pre-eminent gift, to stand on the confines of both, and separated that which had been created from the Creator. And this same Word is continually a suppliant (Greek: paraclete) to the immortal God on behalf of the mortal race, which is exposed to affliction and misery; and is also the ambassador, sent by the Ruler of all, to the subject race. And the Word rejoices in the gift, and, exulting in it, announces it and boasts of it, saying, "And I stood in the midst, between the Lord and You; neither being uncreated as God, nor yet created as you, but being in the midst between these two extremities, like a hostage, as it were, to both parties: a hostage to the Creator, as a pledge and security that the whole race would never fly off and revolt entirely, choosing disorder rather than order; and to the creature, to lead it to entertain a confident hope that the merciful God would not overlook his own work. For I will proclaim peaceful intelligence to the creation from him who has determined to destroy wars, namely God, who is ever the guardian of peace.


Why is it that he speaks as if of some other god, saying that he made man after the image of God, and not that he made him after his own image? (Gen 9:6). Very appropriately and without any falsehood was this oracular sentence uttered by God, for no mortal thing could have been formed on the similitude of the supreme Father of the universe, but only after the pattern of the second deity, who is the Word of the supreme Being; since it is fitting that the rational soul of man should bear it the type of the divine Word; since in his first Word God is superior to the most rational possible nature. But he who is superior to the Word holds his rank in a better and most singular pre-eminence, and how could the creature possibly exhibit a likeness of him in himself? Nevertheless he also wished to intimate this fact, that God does rightly and correctly require vengeance, in order to the defence of virtuous and consistent men, because such bear in themselves a familiar acquaintance with his Word, of which the human mind is the similitude and form

The Essenes / John the Baptist (2nd century BCE - 1st century CE)

The Essenes were an ascetic sect of Jews from the Hellenistic period up until the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE. Many separate, but related religious groups of that era shared similar mystic, eschatological, messianic, and ascetic beliefs. These groups are collectively referred to by various scholars as the "Essenes". The Essenes have gained fame in modern times as a result of the discovery of an extensive group of religious documents known as the Dead Sea Scrolls, commonly believed as being their library.

These Essenes mysteriously disappeared after the temple's destruction in 70 CE, which is also around the time that Christianity started gaining ground. Most of what we know about the Essenes comes from Philo the Jew and Josephus. Philo mentions some sayings of the Essenes that could have come straight from Jesus, and a lot of their sayings already have Jesus saying them in the gospels. Bear in mind that the Essenes were around before Jesus and Christianity.

I think there's an obvious connection between either the Essenes directly, former Essenes seeking some direction after the destruction of the Temple, or people who were incredibly influenced by Essenes theology. John the Baptist seems to fit the description of an "Essene" perfectly - and supposedly Jesus continued his ministry. This isn't proven, however, and is all conjecture on my part.

Essenes in their writings have a "Teacher of Righteousness" - which could be one of the possible influences of the creation of the Jesus that Christians have in their minds today. Maybe not a direct copy, but maybe some of the characteristics of the Essenes' "Teacher of Righteousness" - their beloved, inspirational, and suffering Teacher, who they arguably regarded as a latter-day Joshua ben Nun (Jesus son of Fish) were 'put into' Jesus' character. The Teacher of Righteousness was the leader of the Essenes at Qumran about 150 years earlier than the time of the Gospels. Read more about the Essenes and the Teacher of Righteousness at the Biblical Archaeology Review webiste.

It's possible that Paul created Christianity through contact with the sect that kept the Dead Sea Scrolls. Qumran seems to be the equivalent of Damascus. Philo and Josephus were Jews who learned Greek education and they knew about the Essenes - it's entirely possible that whoever wrote the gospels of the New Testament knew about Essenes theology as well - and injected their prior Essenes theology and sayings into the gospels. John the Baptist is also a major figure in the religion of the Mandaeans, who face possible extinction (as a religion) due to the Iraq war. Though, his biography and death differs considerably from the New Testament (and even Josephus') account.

The Notzrim (1st century BCE - "technically" today)

The "Notzrim" are the Hebrew word for what might be the "Nazarenes". All throughout the Jewish Talmud, Christians are refered to as "Notzrim", implying that Jesus himself wasn't from a town called Nazareth, but that he was part of a sect of Notzrim - Nazarenes. This is evidenced by the lack of any mention of a town in Galilee called "Nazareth" in either the Talmud or Josephus' writings. No archaeological evidence for the existence of a town called "Nazareth" appears until the fourth century, when Constantine I's mother either "found" or "founded" the town known today as Nazareth.

While the Gospel authors wrote that Jesus was from a town called Nazareth, and gMatthew goes as far as to say that Jesus would be called a "Nazarene" to fulfill scripture (a prophecy which doesn't appear in the OT), the Gospels were written after the destruction of the 2nd Temple in 70 CE and outside of Judea. Meaning that they were ignorant of the geography of ancient Palestine (see The Gospels). Not knowing that Jesus was part of a sect called "Nazarenes", and not actually knowing the Hebrew Notzrim, the writers might have misinterpreted his status as a "[Hebrew] Notzrim / [Greek] Nazarene" to mean he was from a town called "Nazareth".

But the "Notzrim" existed at least 100 years before Jesus' time period. So who were the Notzrim? The Notzrim (Hebrew for "sentry" or "watchmen" e.g. those who "keep safe" the original teachings), are a sect that began as a Gnostic movement during the reign of the Hasmonean queen Alexandra Helene Salome (139 - 67 BCE) among Hellenized supporters of Rome in Judea. The famous Notzrim of the pre-Christian era (in existence during the reign of Alexander Jannaeus) included a rebellious student mentioned in the Talmud as "Yeshu Ha-Notzri" - Joshua the Nazarene. Yeshua in English is "Joshua". Yeshua in Greek is "Iesous". Iesous in English is "Jesus". Some fringe scholars identify this individual as the Christian Jesus of Nazareth, although the identification has been contested, as Yeshu ha-Notzri is depicted as living circa 100 BCE.

The Notzri movement was particularly popular with the Samaritan Jews. While the Pharisees were waiting for a messiah who would be a descendant of David, the Samaritan messiah would restore the northern kingdom of Israel. The Samaritans emphasized their partial descent from the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh and thereby from the Joseph of the Torah. They considered themselves the B'nei Yoseph (i.e. "sons of Joseph" [not to be confused with Jesus' step-father Joseph]). This distinction actually makes sense of the geneologies found in both Matthew and Luke, since in both cases his (adopted) patrilineal descent prevents him from inhereting the throne as king (see The Jewish Messiah).

The Mandaeans (mentioned above), who consider themselves successors of the pre-Christian Notzrim, claim John the Baptist as a member (and onetime leader) of their sect; the River Jordan is a central feature of their doctrine of baptism. The term Mandaii itself may be the Aramaic/Mandaean equivalent of the Greek gnosis ("knowledge").

First Generation of Writers

"Q" Document

A hypothetical document that only lists the sayings of Jesus without a narrative. This document was proposed to solve the Synopic Problem - why Mark differs from Matthew and Luke, and why Matthew and Luke contain similarities. It's hypothesized that Papias was refering to this "Q" document when he mentions the "sayings". Q is thought to have the same format as the Gospel of Thomas, which just lists sayings of Jesus.

Mark, Matthew, Luke/Acts of the Apostles, and John (majority of scholars place writings between 70 CE and 110 CE)

All four authors of the gospels (and Acts) actually never write anything about themselves, and all four gospels are written in third person (precluding them from being eyewitness testimony). All attribution of their authorship come from later Christians - so in effect, this part of the "First Generation" of Christian writers didn't write anything that we can honestly attribute solely to them. See The Gospels. All four gospels were written in Koine Greek which points towards Greek education. This education would have taught them the writings of prior Greek writers (like Plato), and how to write Greek stories by using common narrative types, Greek sayings, and plot devices.

While the characters in the Gospels are Jews, the writers of the Gospels were most likely not Jews. This is due to numerous inaccuracies in regards to Jewish law, geography of the area where the Gospels take place, and the oddly anti-Jewish bias of the narratives. Scholarly consensus has Mark being written first in 70 CE (with redactions as late as 135 CE), and John being written last around 110 CE.

Paul of Tarsus (died c. 64 CE)

The most prolific writer of the New Testament, Paul's writings make up the bulk of the New Testament. Even though he's part of the First Generation of Christian writers, he actually isn't an eyewitness to the living Jesus. His claim to Apostolic Succession (if you want to call it that) is a vision he had. Anyone claiming to have these type of visions these days would surely be put into an institution or simply deemed a street crazy, but for some reason his writings are seen as canon. However, some who argue for a "Mythical Christ" figure claim that all of the original Apostles had these visions (citing 1 Corinthians 15) and none of them knew a historical Jesus. This also explains why Paul's writings are "canonical" for Gnostic Christians like Theudas, Marcion, Valentinus - Paul might have just been continuing the proto-Gnostic traditions of the Notzrim. However, Paul's writings are seen as heretical for Jewish-Christians like the Ebionites.

While it's debated whether Paul actually wrote any of the epistles attributed to him, out of all of the letters attributed to Paul there seem to be two distinctly different sets of letters from what looks to be two different writers, or possibly three (four if you count Hebrews), but at least the core six letters that are widely accepted as "authentic Paul" do very much appear to have been written by the same person in the same style covering the same sets of topics with a similar outlook.

The remaining letters (not counting Hebrews) look like they were written by one different person who also has the same style, etc. throughout those letters. It's also pretty clear that whoever wrote those letters wrote them BEFORE the Gospels were written, since Paul doesn't mention an empty tomb and never quotes from any of the gospels (though he does refer to "scripture" and quotes from the LXX) even though quoting something from Jesus' ministry would have had more weight than his say so or the LXX. If Paul also didn't write 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus, then Paul also never mentions Pilate.

The seven letters that are generally classified as "undisputed", expressing contemporary scholarly near consensus that they are the work of Paul, are: Romans, 1 & 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Philippians, 1 Thessalonians, and Philemon. Six additional letters bearing Paul's name do not currently enjoy the same academic consensus: Ephesians, Colossians, 2 Thessalonians, 1 & 2 Timothy, and Titus. The first three, called the "Deutero-Pauline Epistles," have no consensus on whether or not they are authentic letters of Paul. The latter three, the "Pastoral Epistles", are widely regarded as pseudographs, though certain scholars do consider them genuine. There are two examples of pseudonymous letters written in Paul's name apart from the alleged New Testament epistles like the Epistle to the Laodiceans and 3 Corinthians. Since the early centuries of the Church, there has been debate concerning the authorship of the anonymous Epistle to the Hebrews, and contemporary liberal scholars reject Pauline authorship.

Paul is also the reason why modern Christians do not follow Jewish laws and traditions. At the "Concil of Jerusalem" circa 49 CE, Paul argued that his new Gentile converts shouldn't have to follow Jewish law if they converted to Christianity. Whereas James and the original disciples argued that these Gentile converts should follow Jewish law. They (according to Paul) compromised on following the pre-Moses Noahide Law.

It could be argued that the religion of Christianity belongs more to Paul than to Jesus, which is the result of Jesus not having written or dictated anything.

Peter (c. 1 CE - 64 or 67 CE)

Peter has two letters traditionally ascribed to him in the NT. 1 Peter and 2 Peter. There are also multiple apocryphal works also ascribed to Peter such as Acts of Peter, the Apocalypse of Peter (for a while considered canonical), the Gnostic Apocalypse of Peter, a docetic Gospel of Peter, and many more.

1 Peter

Most critical scholars are skeptical that the apostle Simon Peter, the fisherman on the Sea of Galilee, actually wrote the epistle, because of the urbane cultured style of the Greek and the lack of any personal detail suggesting contact with the historical Jesus the Nazarene. The letter contains about thirty-five references to the Hebrew Bible, all of which, however, come from the Septuagint translation, an unlikely source for historical Peter the apostle who would have been a native Aramaic speaker... meaning that the text is most likely pseudepigraphal. Though, it could have been written by a secretary of his "Silvanus". A majority of scholars date it to 70 - 90 CE since the epistle refers to persecutions. These persecutions might be from Domitian (c 95) or of Trajan (c 112). The Epistle is intent on keeping the teachings of Paul, even though at the "meeting of Jerusalem" (Galatians 2) Paul meets with Peter but doesn't really give him any respect. This letter therefore could have been written to further propegate Pauline Christianity and discredit Ebionite and otherwise Jewish-Christian Christianity, since it was most likely not written by Peter himself.

2 Peter

Scholars vary in dating this epistle. Date ranges are between 60 CE and 160 CE. Most scholars also contend that this is pseudepigraphal. Reasons for this include its linguistic differences from 1 Peter, its apparent copy of portions of Jude, possible allusions to second-century gnosticism, encouragement in the wake of a delayed parousia (ie Second Coming). Even Eusebis, writing his tome "Church History" concedes that this epistle wasn't written by the apostle Peter, yet it was kept in the canon because it was spiritually useful. The writer of this epistle is also familiar with Pauline epistles (2 Pet 3), meaning that it may have been written in early 2nd century as well (but as noted, by a different pseudepigraphal author from 1 Peter) but probably prior to Marcion's canon c. 140.

John (???? - ????)

There are five works attributed to a "John" in the NT: The gospel according to John, the Revelation of John, and three epistles ascribed to a John. It's highly unlikely that these are all the same "John".

1 John

In 382 CE the Council of Rome voted that this was written by a "John the Evangelist" and that 2 and 3 John were written by "John the Presbyter". This letter might have been rebuking a proto-Gnostic named Cerinthus, who emphasized the humanity of Jesus as distinct from the wholly spiritual Christ. Cerinthus was possibly a contemporary of the John that Irenaeus said wrote the gospel bearing his name, meaning that this John and that John are one and the same. The author was concerned about heretical teachers that had been influencing churches under his care, teachers who had once been church leaders but whose teaching became heterodox. It appears that these teachers taught that Jesus was a Spirit being without a body (4:2), that his death on the cross was not as an atonement for sins (1:7) and that they were no longer able to sin (1:8-10).

2 John

This epistle is addressed to a "Kyria" or "lady". Like 1 John, it strongly decries docetic (Jesus was merely an illusion and he was actually pure spirit) or proto-Gnostic Christologies. It's also the shortest epistle in the entire NT, quite possibly a "cover letter" for 3 John.

3 John

This was written by a man identified only as "the presbyteros" - "presbyter" is Greek for "elder". The letter is addressed to Gaius (Caius), scholars are uncertain if this Caius is the Christian Caius in Macedonia (Acts 19:29), the Caius in Corinth (Romans 16:23) or the Caius in Derbe (Acts 20:4). 1 and 2 John are both concerned with the same issue, making it safe to assume that they were written at a similar time (but not by the same author). 3 John is not connected to the situation found in the previous two letters, which means it may have been written earlier or later. 2 and 3 John also follow a similar format, implying that they were written by the same person. A date later than 110-115 is thought unlikely as parts of the first two epistles were quoted by Polycarp and Papias.

The Revelation of John (of Patmos)

The author of Revelation identifies himself several times as "John" (1:1, 4, 9; 22:8). The author also states that he was in exile on the island of Patmos when he received his first vision (1:9; 4:1-2). As a result, the author of Revelation is referred to as John of Patmos. Eusebius classed it with his list of "contested books" before canonizing it due to pressure from Constantine to finalize a canon. Many modern scholars (and even at the Council of Rome) believe that John the Apostle, John the Evangelist, and John of Patmos refer to three separate individuals. Like previously mentioned the author of Revelation identifies himself as "John" several times, but the author of the Gospel of John never identifies himself directly. Matter of factly, the author of the gospel of John says that the information was from the "beloved disciple", not that the beloved disciple actually wrote it. The gospel assigned to John is written in nearly flawless Greek, but Revelation contains grammatical errors and stylistic abnormalities which indicate its author may not have been as familiar with the Greek language as the gospel's author.

J. Massynberde Ford contends that the core verses of the book, in general chapters 4 through 22, are surviving records of the prophecies of John the Baptist. She notes, for example, that the Lamb of God references in the Gospels are all associated with John the Baptist. I personally date this to around the reign of Nero, considering that the "beast"'s number is six hundred and sixty six - utilizing Greek gematria, this spells out "Neron Caesar". Supporting this is the existence of copies of Revelation that have six hundred sixteen instead of 666. 616 in gematria spells out "Nero Caesar". Though the dating of this book is still widely debated with no scholarly consensus.

I also think that the author was just some looney on Patmos tripping on acid. Nineteenth-century agnostic Robert G. Ingersoll branded Revelation "the insanest of all books". Thomas Jefferson omitted it entirely from the Bible he edited, and wrote that he "considered it as merely the ravings of a maniac, no more worthy nor capable of explanation than the incoherences of our own nightly dreams". "Martin Luther found it an offensive piece of work" and "John Calvin had grave doubts about its value."


The epistle of Jude was written by a "brother of James". It has similarity with 2 Peter, possibly influencing 2 Peter or being influenced by 2 Peter. It's held as canonical in the majority of Christian churches, some scholars consider the letter a pseudepigraphal work written between the end of the first century and the first quarter of the 2nd century, arguing from the references to the apostles (verse 17-18), tradition (3); the book's competent Greek style and the opposition to Gnosticism. Eusebius classified it with the "disputed writings, the antilegomena." (along with the Revelation of John of Patmos).

The wording and syntax of this epistle in its original Greek demonstrates that the author was capable and fluent in Greek (meaning that it's more than likely pseudepigraphical). The author knew Paul's Epistle to the Ephesians or even that the Pauline epistles had already been collected and were circulating when the text was written. Paul's letters were circulating sometime during his lifetime (c. 50 CE) but weren't "canonized" until Marcion, a "proto"-Gnostic, put together the first "New Testament" circa 140 CE. This might also place this epistle in the early 2nd century. Verse 9 refers to the dispute between Michael the Archangel and the devil about the body of Moses. A passage in a non-canonical book, the "Assumption of Moses", provides an account of this dispute. Jude also quotes the apocryphal 1 Enoch; verses 14-15 contain a direct quote of a prophecy from 1 En 1:9. The title "Enoch, the seventh from Adam" is also sourced from 1 En 60:1.

James (died c. 64 CE)

James only has one letter purported to have been written by him in the NT. The significance of this is incumbant on determining which James wrote it. Church tradition has the brother of Jesus James the Just (mentioned by Josephus) as its author. James the Just was popular among Jewish-Christians and quite a few other non-Christian Jews, but not among "Pauline" Christians. Which would make sense of his only having one letter in the NT, since the current canon is emphatically pro-Paul. However, he describes himself as "servant of the Lord" and not his "brother", as is his common title. Meaning that it might have been written by a different "James" other than Jesus' blood brother James.

John Calvin (founder of Calvinism) and others suggested that the author was the Apostle James, son of Alphaeus and not James the Just. Martin Luther argued that it was not the work of an apostle. Obviously, because James chapter 2 is contrary to Martin Luther's (and possibly Paul's) doctrine of "Sola Fide", describing faith without works (Sola Fide) as spiritually worthless. This epistle also has occasionally been attributed to the apostle James the Great, brother of John the Evangelist and son of Zebedee.

This is all conjecture on my part, but it seems as though the gospel of John was intended to be a pseudepigraphical work of James the Just. In John 19, Jesus says while on the cross to his "beloved disciple" and his mother Mary:

25 Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.
26 When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, "Dear woman, here is your son,"
27 and to the disciple, "Here is your mother." From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.

This implies that the "beloved disciple" is Jesus' "brother". Later, at the end of John 21, the author says:

20 Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them. (This was the one who had leaned back against Jesus at the supper and had said, "Lord, who is going to betray you?")
21 When Peter saw him, he asked, "Lord, what about him?"
22 Jesus answered, "If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me."
23 Because of this, the rumor spread among the brothers that this disciple would not die. But Jesus did not say that he would not die; he only said, "If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you?"
24 This is the disciple who testifies to these things and who wrote them down. We know that his testimony is true.

The gospel of John is in contrast to the Synoptics in that Jesus is displaying his superpowers wantonly. Jesus in the Synoptics is playing the Clark Kent / Superman role while in John he is Superman 24/7. I conjecture that possibly someone from Paul's church or influenced by Paul's view of a non-human Jesus wrote gJohn and alluded to it being written by, or influenced by James. Their intent was to discredit Jame's church in Jerusalem - like the Ebionites - by saying that James actually didn't believe in a fully human, non-god Jesus. In order to do that, they'd obviously have to write gJohn after the death of James. This gospel also explicitly promotes Pauline "Sola Fide" by being the only gospel with the "Doubting Thomas" story.

The Ebionites (1st century CE - 5th/6th century CE)

The Ebionites were a sect of Jewish Christians who followed the teachings of Jesus but still followed Jewish law. The word "ebion" in Hebrew means "poor". Paul makes references to "the poor" in Gal 2:10, Rom 15:26, and 15:31. The Ebionites rejected many of what are now mainstream thoughts on Jesus, like his pre-existence, divinity, atonement for original sin, virgin birth, and resurrection. The Ebionites had only one gospel - a modified version of gMatthew that did not have his nativity scene - called the Gospel of the Hebrews. This was the only NT book that they held as scripture along with the "Old Testament." It's unclear whether the Gospel of the Hebrews came first, or if the canonical gMatthew was written first.

The Ebionites assert that Paul was a Greek who converted to Judaism in order to marry a daughter of the High Priest, but apostatized when she rejected him. Their disdain for Paul is due to them adhering to a strict form of Apostolic Succession whereby direct family members of Jesus - like James - were the true leaders of their Church after Jesus' passing. This might imply that James himself was an Ebionite.

They believed that Jesus was a human being, born by natural process from Joseph and Mary; that he was given prophetic powers by God through his baptism from John; that he was an observant Jew, loyal to the Torah, which he did not abrogate and which was, therefore, still fully valid; and that his message had been distorted and perverted by Paul, whose visions were deluded, and who had falsely represented Jesus as having abrogated the Torah.

Writings thought to be by the Ebionites (or Cerinthus):

The Pseudo-Clementine writings
These writings were preserved as orthodox patristic works because they were falsely attributed to the authorship of Pope Clement I, who was popularly supposed to have been a disciple of Peter himself. In fact, the core of these writings, as was pointed out by F. C. Baur in the nineteenth century and as most scholars now agree (after an interim of dispute and denigration of Baur's work), is Jewish Christian or Ebionite, stemming from second-century Syria. This core shows a staunch adherence to the Torah, and contains an impassioned attack on those who attributed anti-Torah views to Peter. Paul is not mentioned by name, but he is strongly hinted at as the supreme enemy under the disguise of 'Simon Magus', against whom Peter is represented as polemicizing. Peter's attack on this lightly disguised Paul is on the grounds that he is a false prophet, that he has spread lies about Peter and, most telling of all, that he knows nothing about the true teachings of Jesus, since he never met him in the flesh and bases his ideas of Jesus on delusive visions. That this 'Simon Magus' is really Paul is now accepted by scholars, despite many desperate attempts to resist this conclusion made by critics of Baur who realized how profound would be the consequences of such an admission. For it shows that Paul, far from being a unanimously accepted pillar of the Church, like Peter, was a controversial figure, whose role in the founding of Christianity was a subject of great contention.

The Arabic manuscript discovered by Shlomo Pines
Some interesting evidence of the views of the Jewish Christian community of Syria at a later date, probably the fifth century, was discovered by the Israeli scholar Shlomo Pines. While studying a tenth-century Arabic work by 'Abd al-Jabbar in a manuscript in Istanbul, he was able to prove that one section of this work had actually been incorporated from a Jewish Christian source. The standpoint of this incorporated section is that of the Ebionites: belief in the continuing validity of the Torah, insistence on the human status of Jesus as a prophet, and strong opposition to Paul as the falsifier of Jesus' teachings. According to this source, Paul abandoned the observance of the Torah mainly in order to obtain the backing of Rome and achieve power and influence for himself. Paul is even held responsible for the destruction of the Temple by the Romans, since his anti-Jewish propaganda inflamed the Romans against the Jews. His Christianity, says this source, was 'Romanism'; instead of converting Romans into Christians, he converted Christians into Romans.

This Jewish Christian source also contains some acute criticism of the Gospels, which it declares to be untrustworthy and self-contradictory. The only trustworthy Gospel, it declares, was the original one written in Hebrew, yet it is doubtful whether the community which produced this source still possessed a copy of this original Gospel. One of the source's remarks on the Gospel stories of Jesus' alleged abrogation of the laws of the Torah is of special interest. It relates to the corn-plucking incident, which it explains as a case of dire emergency due to the state of starvation of the disciples; and the technical phrase in Arabic used to explain the legality of the corn-plucking is a direct translation of the Hebrew piqquah nefesh ('the saving of a soul'), used in the Talmud in connection with the abrogation of the sabbath law in cases of danger to human life.

In general, the picture emerging from this text is of a Jewish Christian community, in the fifth century, out of touch in many ways with its own sources and barely managing to preserve an underground existence, yet still clinging to elements of belief deriving from centuries earlier and, at certain points, still linked to the earliest Jewish Christians of all, the Jerusalem Nazarene community of James and Peter.

Second Generation of Writers

Polycarp (c. 69 - c. 155)

Polycarp of Smyrna was a Christian bishop of Smyrna (now Izmir in Turkey). It is recorded that "He had been a disciple of John." The options for this John are John the son of Zebedee traditionally viewed as the author of the Fourth Gospel, or John the Presbyter. Traditional advocates follow Eusebius in insisting that the apostolic connection of Papias was with John the Evangelist, and that this John, the author of the Gospel of John, was the same as the Apostle John.

Ignatius (c. 35 - c. 110)

Ignatius of Antioch (also known as Theophorus) was the third Bishop or Patriarch of Antioch and a student of the Apostle John. En route to his martyrdom in Rome, Ignatius wrote a series of letters which have been preserved as an example of the theology of the earliest Christians. Important topics addressed in these letters include ecclesiology, the sacraments, and the role of bishops. He clearly identifies the local-church hierarchy composed of bishop, presbyters, and deacons and claims to have spoken in some of the churches through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. He is the second after Clement to mention Paul's epistles. The letters that survive to this day are known to have been heavily redacted by later Christians.

Clement (of Rome) (unknown - c. 99)

Clement of Rome's first epistle, 1 Clement (c 96), was copied and widely read and is generally considered to be the oldest Christian epistle in existence outside of the New Testament. The letter is extremely lengthy, twice as long as the Epistle to the Hebrews, and it demonstrates the author's familiarity with many books of both the Old Testament and New Testaments. The epistle repeatedly refers to the Old Testament as scripture and includes numerous references to the Book of Judith. Within the letter, Clement calls on the Christians of Corinth to maintain harmony and order. Tradition identifies the author as St. Clement, the fourth bishop of Rome, and scholarly consensus is overwhelmingly in favor of the letter's authenticity.

Second Clement was traditionally ascribed to Clement of Rome, but it is now generally considered to have been written later, c 140-160, and therefore could not be the work of Clement. Whereas First Clement was an epistle, 2 Clement appears to be a transcript an oral homily or sermon, making it the oldest existing Christian sermon outisde of the New Testament.

Theudas (lived some time during the first century, according to both Josephus and Valentinus)

Supposed follower Paul of Tarsus, taught Valentinus Gnostic Christianity. Paul supposedly taught him secret wisdom that he received from his vision on the road to Damascus, which Theudas then taught Valentinus. Most Gnostic tradition and theology traces itself back to Paul.

Cerinthus (c.100)

Was claimed by a sect of heretical Christians from the 2nd and 3rd century called the Alogi (antithesis of the Logos) to be the true author of gJohn and Revelation. There might be some truth to their claim due to Cerinthus being studied in Alexandra, Egypt according to Irenaeus (Against Heresies 1.26.1). The same place where Philo studied. Thus the idea for the "Logos" might have come from Cerinthus and not "John".

Cerinthus was a mixture of proto-Gnosticism and the Ebionites. Unlike the Ebionites, he believed that the angels had created the world. And unlike the subsequent Gnostics he didn't think that these angels were the malevolent "Demiurge" (literally "craftsman"). However he did teach that Jesus and the Christ were two separate entities. Much like the Ebionites, he taught that Jesus received his powers of miracles and wisdom via John's baptism and lost them on the cross. Diverging from the Ebionites, though, said that upon Jesus' death, the "Christ" left him and returned to the higher heaven with the Father since it was wholly a spiritual being.

Irenaeus said that Polycarp said that John (of Zebedee) hated Cerinthus so much that they were once in a bathhouse and immediately fled once John learned that Cerinthus was also inside. Since Cerinthus and John were bitter enemies, John might have modified Cerinthus' proto-"Logos" gospel to refute Cerinthus with an updated "John" gospel - the current canonical gJohn.

Cerinthus is said to have been the intended recipient of the Secret Book (Apocryphon) of James, which has gnostic undertones.

Papias (Before 70 - c. 155)

According to Irenaeus, Papias was "a hearer of John, and companion of Polycarp, a man of old time." In other words, Irenaeus says that Polycarp and Papias were contemporaries. Papias' Interpretations of the Sayings of the Lord in five books, would have been a prime early authority in the exegesis of the sayings of Jesus, some of which are recorded in gMatthew and gMark, but the book has utterly disappeared, known only through fragments quoted in later writers, with neutral approval in Irenaeus's Against Heresies and later with scorn by Eusebius in Ecclesiastical History, the earliest surviving history of the early Church.

Papias reports he heard things that came from an unwritten, oral tradition of the Presbyters, a "sayings" or logia tradition that had been passed from Jesus to such of the apostles and disciples. This means that Papias is unaware of any narrative gospels like the ones that exist in the NT today.

Basilides (early 2nd century)

Basilides was an early 2nd century Gnostic, teaching during the reign of the Emperor Hadrian (117 - 138 CE). He was a student of a Glaucias, and Glaucias was an interpreter of Peter. He seems to have prefered the gospel of Mark and was an adoptionist (Irenaeus calls them "separatists"), though during Basilides' lifetime, it was still an anonymous gospel and not called "according to Mark". If Basilides were to call it anything, it would have been "according to Glaucias", since the name "according to Mark" is due to Papias' contrary Apostolic Succession of Mark being an interpreter of Peter.

Similar to Cerinthus, Basilides taught that the Mind of God descended on Jesus on his baptism and left him on the cross. Jesus suffered and died as a wholly human being. Some later Basilideans said that Simon of Cyrene was the one who was actually crucified. Since he's the one who carries Jesus' cross and afterwards it is all pronouns describing the crucifixion, there is ambiguity over who was crucified. This also accords with Muslim beliefs that Jesus wasn't the one who was crucified, but only a likeness of him.

Third Generation of Writers

Valentinus (c. 100 - c. 160)

Valentinus was a Gnostic Christian, who claimed he was a disciple of Theudas. Most of what we know about Valentinus was written by a vociferous opponent of his: Irenaeus. According to Irenaeus' "Against Heresies", Valentinus wrote the Gospel of Truth. As a Gnostic Christian following Theudas' (and by succession, Paul's) theology, he professed the first concept of a "Trinity": God (the Father), Sophia (the Mother), and Logos (the Son). His trinity isn't without precedent; "Wisdom" is near second deity in the book of Proverbs, and Philo anthropomorphized the Logos as another secondary deity.

Marcion (80 - 160)

Marcion affirmed Jesus as the savior sent by God, and Paul as his chief apostle. Marcion declared that Christianity was distinct from and in opposition to Judaism. He rejected the entire Hebrew Bible, and declared that the God of the Hebrew Bible was a lesser demiurge and god of rote justice, who had created the earth, and whose law, the Mosaic covenant, represented his own bare natural justice i.e. eye for an eye. This was called "Marcionism".

The premise of Marcionism is that many of the teachings of Jesus are incompatible with the actions of Yahweh, the God of the Old Testament. Tertullian claimed Marcion was the first to separate the New Testament from the Old Testament. In other words, Marcion compiled the very first "New Testament", and was the catalyst for the proto-Orthodoxy to compile and promote their own authorized canon. Marcion's canon was the very first New Testament in record, and is the first Christian to cite a narrative gospel. Marcion's legacy also include his followers having the oldest extant Christian inscription.

Focusing on the Pauline traditions of the Gospel, Marcion felt that all other conceptions of the Gospel were opposed to the truth. He regarded Paul's arguments of law and gospel, wrath and grace, works and faith, flesh and spirit, sin and righteousness and death and life as the essence of religious truth. He ascribed these aspects and characteristics as two principles: the righteous and wrathful God of the Old Testament, the creator of the world, and a second God of the Gospel who is purely love and mercy and who was revealed by Jesus.

His canon consisted of eleven books: his own version of gLuke (Gospel of Marcion), and ten of Paul's epistles. All other epistles and gospels of the New Testament were rejected because he wanted to cleanse all "Jewishness" from the NT. This also supports the idea that Paul was a non-Jew who converted to Judaism, and then subsequently Christianity. Another hypothesis proposed is that - since the first appearance of Paul's epistles is due to Marcion - that Marcion actually wrote some (if not all) of Paul's letters, and that Simon Magus was Paul's real name. Paul, Simon Magus (in writings outside of Acts), and Marcion are all heavily tied to Gnosticism.

Some scholars say Marcion's Gospel may have preceded Luke's Gospel. There are three possibilities: Either Marcion and Luke both based their gospels on an earlier, common source (such as Matthew and Luke are based on Q in the Augustinian hypothesis), Marcion copied off of canonical Luke, or the Gospel of Luke was based on Marcion's gospel.

Marcion, or at least the Marcionites, did not refer to Jesus as "Christ" (Christos / Χριστος) but as Chrestos (Χρηστος) which meant "good" or "useful"; the difference between the two titles being one iota. This was because Jesus in their view was not the Jewish Messiah, but the son of the Good God; a separate god from the god of the Jews. Marcion himself was not a Gnostic, but his ideas were later absorbed into Gnostic thought.

Ironically, Marcion's (Μαρκίων) name is related to Mark (Μαρκός).

Justin (Martyr) the Philosopher (100 - 165)

Another Christian writer in the 2nd century. Has a writing called "Dialog with Trypho the Jew", himself and a rabbi named Trypho debate whether Jesus is the Christ, Trypho himself saying that Christianity is based on rumor. If "Antiquities" did have that uncontested part about Jesus, then Justin could have used that against him. However, Josephus' "Antiquities" is not utilized as evidence against.

Justin also seems to be unaware of Paul's epistles or knew anything about any authors of any gospel named Matthew, Mark, Luke or John. But he does quote many passages from the "Memoirs of the Apostles" which appear to be identical or quite similar to the synoptic gospels Matthew, Mark and Luke. Up to the middle of the 2nd century he seems not to be aware of the actual authors of any gospels who are called Matthew, Mark, Luke or John and appears not to be aware of any letter writers named Peter, James, John or Jude. Justin does, however, reference Marcion by name and at the time of Justin's writing claims that Marcion was "alive even to this day".

Montanus (mid 2nd century) Montanus was a founder of a Christian movement of the early 2nd century. It originated at Hierapolis where Papias was bishop and flourished throughout the region of Phrygia. Scholars are divided as to when Montanus first began his prophecy, having chosen dates varying from c. 135 to as late as 177 CE. The most widely known Montanist was Tertullian, though Tertullian fell away from orthodoxy after writing his many books against heretics (namely Marcion).

Montanus claimed to have received a series of direct revelations from the Holy Spirit. In some of his prophecies Montanus spoke in the first person as God. Scholars of Montanism agree that these words of Montanus exemplify the general practice of religious prophets to speak as the passive mouthpieces of the divine, and to claim divine inspiration (similar to modern prophets stating "Thus saith the Lord"). Montanus was accompanied by two women, Prisca, sometimes called Priscilla, and Maximilla, who likewise claimed the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. As they went, "the Three" as they were called, spoke in ecstatic visions and urged their followers to fast and pray, so that they might share these personal revelations. His preachings spread from his native Phrygia.

It is generally agreed that the movement was inspired by Montanus' reading of the Gospel of John— "I will send you the advocate [paraclete], the spirit of truth". Prisca claimed that Christ had appeared to her in female form. When she was excommunicated, she exclaimed "I am driven away like the wolf from the sheep. I am no wolf: I am word and spirit and power." Although the orthodox Christian church prevailed against Montanism within a few generations, inscriptions in the Tembris valley of northern Phrygia, dated between 249 and 279, openly proclaim their allegiance to Montanism.

Some modern writers have suggested that some of its emphasis on direct, ecstatic personal presence of the Holy Spirit bears resemblance to all forms of Pentecostalism. While there may be some similarities between Montanism and modern Pentecostalism, there does not appear to be any historical link between the two, as most Pentecostals claim authenticity based on the New Testament Book of Acts (chapter 2).

Irenaeus (late 2nd century)

Irenaeus claimed to remember from his youth knowing Polycarp. He wrote "Against Heresies" which was an attack on Gnosticism and Marcion/Valentinus shortly after Valentinus' death. Irenaeus's main purpose was to warn Christians against Gnosticism, rather than accurately describe those beliefs. Many bible scholars agree (upon the discovery of the Nag Hammadi library) that Irenaeus had an incorrect view of Gnostic beliefs. Irenaeus also claimed that the bishops in the different cities in early Christianity could all be traced back to the original Apostles/Disciples. Many other churches (ironically, the ones which claimed Apostolic Succession) were also using only one gospel or more than four gospels as canon. ("Against Heresies" 3.11.7 acknowledges that many heterodox Christians use only one gospel while 3.11.9 acknowledges that some use more than four. c 180 CE). Irenaeus used a weird logic to decide on only four gospels - since there are only four corners of the Earth, four winds, four beasts of the Apocalypse, there should only be four gospels.

Irenaeus was the first to assert that the gospel known as gJohn was written by a "John" and that the gospel that came to be known as gLuke was written by a "Luke, a companion of Paul". Irenaeus claimed Jesus was fifty years old before he died under the reign of Claudius in "Against Heresies". Irenaeus is also the first unambiguous witness to the three Pastoral Epistles of Paul and Acts of the Apostles. Besides the four gospels and 13 of Paul's epistles, Irenaeus considered 1 and 2 John, John's revelation, 1 Peter, and the Sheppard of Hermas authentic.

Tatian "the Assyrian" (2nd century)

Compiled the four gospels into a single narrative called the "Diatessaron" (by way of four). The Diatessaron resolves conflicting statements. For example, it omits the conflicting genealogies in Matthew and Luke. In order to fit all the canonical material in, Tatian created his own narrative sequence, which is different from both the synoptic sequence and John's sequence. Tatian omitted duplicated text, especially among the synoptics. The harmony does not include Jesus' encounter with the adulteress (John 7:53 - 8:11), a passage that is generally considered as not original to John.

Twenty years after Tatian's harmony, Irenaeus expressly proclaimed the authoritative character of the four gospels. The Diatessaron became the standard text of the gospels in the Syriac-speaking churches down to the fifth century, when it gave way to the four separate Gospels

He was also pupil of Justin Martyr in Rome. When Justin quotes the Gospels, he tends to do so in a harmonised form, and it is generally concluded that he must have possessed a Greek harmony text; but it is unclear how much Tatian may have borrowed from this previous author in determining his own narrative sequence of Gospel elements. It is equally unclear whether Tatian took the Syriac Gospel texts composited into his Diatessaron from a previous translation, or whether the translation was his own. Where the Diatessaron records Gospel quotations from the Jewish Scriptures, the text appears to agree with that found in the Syriac Peshitta Old Testament rather than that found in the Greek Septuagint - as used by the original Gospel authors.

Eusebius, in his "Church History" 4.29.5, says that Tatian rejected Paul's epistles and Acts of the Apostles.

Origen (c. 185 - c. 254)

A Christian writer in the 2nd and 3rd century. He knows about Josephus and "Antiquties" but mentions that he wasn't a Christian. This is problematic because if the contested part above was contained in the "Antiquities" that Origen had, he more than likely would have mentioned it in his writings. This is consistent with other Christian writers from the time period between 100 CE and 300 CE. Origen considered the four gospels, 13 letters of Paul, the letter to the Hebrews (which he viewed as not a Pauline letter), 1 Peter, 1 John, John's Revelation, The Sheppard of Hermas, the letter from Barnabas, and the Didache authentic. His acceptance of 2 and 3 John, 2 Peter, Jude, and 1 Clement was contested.

Fourth Generation of Writers

Eusebius of Caesarea (c. 263 - c. 339)

Eusebius of Caesarea was a major figure in the early church as well as the First Concil of Nicaea. The two greatest historical works of Eusebius are his Chronicle and his Church History. He was a major adviser to Constantine I during the First Council of Nicaea and possible redactor of the theological texts; Constantine at one point ordered him to produce 50 Bibles for dissemenation around the Roman empire, which solidified the Eusebian version of the New Testament for the rest of history.

Arius (256 - 336)

Arius was a Christian priest from Alexandria, Egypt in the early fourth century whose teachings, now called Arianism, were deemed heretical by the Church. Few of Arius' writings still exist. Constantine I ordered their burning while Arius was still living, and any that survived that purge were later destroyed by his opponents. Those works which have survived are found in the works of churchmen who wrote after he had died and denounced him as a heretic, leading some but not all scholars to question their reliability, much in a similar manner as the relationship between Valentinus and Irenaeus.

One of the basic tenents of Arianism is that Jesus was begotten and didn't exist "for all time" in the form of the Logos described in John. Subsequently, this means that there was a time when God did not exist as a trinity; thereby undoing the trinitarian aspect of God known by modern Christians.

First Concil of Nicaea (324 CE)

The First Concil of Nicaea was a gathering of Christian leadership to establish a set continuity in theology viz. the concept of the "Trinity". For the most part, the Concil focused on the Arian controversy - the idea that Jesus didn't exist for all time. To reify this concept of the Trinity, Eusebius and other church leaders from around the Roman empire (and some outside) gathered in one place and began collecting documents from their respective churches to establish Christian continuity and historicity to validate their claim that Jesus in fact did exist for all time.

Most of the earliest Christian writings are physically dated to this time period, and all writings that came prior to this time period were "redundant"; and thus destroyed or lost. It's also around this time that we get the redaction of Josephus' "Antiquties of the Jews", leading some to speculate that other possbile redactions to earlier documents took place to suit the agenda of the Concil. Another controversy of redaction besides Josephus' "Antiquities" is also what's called the "Comma Johannum". This is a short verse in 1 John 5:7-8 that seems to have a later redaction.
5:7 For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.
5:8 And there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one.
The part in bold doesn't show up in earlier versions of this epistle, and was never quoted during the heresy of Arius. But it should have since it's explicitly positing the concept of the trinity.

Several early sources which one might expect to include the "Comma Johanneum" in fact omit it. For example, although Clement of Alexandria (c. 200) places a strong emphasis on the Trinity, his quotation of 1 John 5:8 does not include the Comma. Tertullian, in his Against Praxeas (c. 210), supports a Trinitarian view by quoting John 10:30, even though the Comma would have provided stronger support. Likewise, Jerome's writings of the fourth century give no evidence that he was aware of the Comma's existence. Due to these early omissions, many modern New Testaments omit the "Comma".

It's possible that at this time period there were many different "New Testaments" floating around with various inconsistencies. One of the results of the Concil was to remedy these inconsistencies.

Mainly for political reasons, Arian theology was deemed heretical, since the Bishops who were in power in Rome were the ones who called for the Concil. By vote, the leaders of various churches eventually settled on "Trinitarianism", exiled Arius, and deemed Arianism heresey.

Keep in mind that the Christians on the Nicene Council voted on the divine status of Jesus for political reasons. Council member Eusebius, in concert with Dorotheus, Agapius, Pamphilus, and other believers, published their version (and that's all it was) of what they thought the Christian God was all about. Hundreds of other texts were thrown out as unorthodox or uninspired. Emperor Constantine took those New Testament copies and instituted them as authoritative. These copies are the earliest extant copies that we have today.