The Muratorian Canon is one of the earliest lists of the books recognised as Scripture, most of which were later included in the New Testament. It is named after the 18th-century scholar Lodovico Antonio Muratori (1672–1750), who discovered it in the Ambrosian Library in Milan, Italy, where it is still held. The existing document contains 85 lines of poor-quality Latin dating from the seventh century AD. It is a copy and translation from an earlier Greek original from between AD 170 and AD 210. The beginning and end of the document is missing.
The dating of the original is estimated from this passage towards the end of the document, "But Hermas wrote 'the Shepherd' in the city of Rome most recently in our times, when his brother bishop Pious was occupying the chair in the church at Rome". Pius I was bishop of Rome from AD 140 to AD 155.
It lists the books of the New Testament which were accepted by the Catholic Church, and rejects several named writings, which it considers to contain views of heretical groups, particularly Marcion. Although the original purpose and context of the document is not known, it clearly has a strongly polemical purpose to define the church's canon of Scripture, in response to the threat of Marcionism.
The list includes all four gospels and Acts, although the portion of the document describing Matthew and most of Mark is missing. It lists twelve letters of Paul, omitting Philemon. Among the general letters, Jude and 1 and 2 John are included, while Hebrews, James, 1 and 2 Peter and 3 John are not listed. It also includes the Wisdom of Solomon, which is now in the Apocrypha. It includes two Apocalypses, one by John and one by Peter, which it says is not accepted by everyone in the church. It also mentions the Shepherd of Hermas, but suggests that the date is too late for inclusion.
The Muratorian Canon
Mark’s Gospel (probably)
...at which never the less he was present and so he placed it in his narrative.
The third book of the gospel is that according to Luke. Luke the well known physician wrote it in his own name, according to the general belief after the ascension of Christ when Paul had associated him with himself as one zealous for correctness. One who took pains to find out the facts. It is true that he had not seen the Lord in the flesh. Yet having ascertained the facts he was able to begin his narrative with the nativity of John.
The fourth book of the gospel is that of John's, one of the disciples. In response to the exhortation of his fellow disciples and bishops he said "Fast with me for three days then let us tell each other whatever shall be revealed to each one." The same night it was revealed to Andrew, who was one of the apostles, that it was John who should relate in his own name what they collectively remembered. Or that John was to relate in his own name, they all acting as correctors. And so to the faith of believers there is no discord even although different selections are given from the facts in the individual books of the gospels. Because in all of them under the one guiding spirit all the things relative to his nativity, passion, resurrection, conversation with his disciples, and his twofold advent, the first in humiliation rising form contempt which took place and the second in the glory of kingly power which is yet to come, have been declared. What marvel it is then if John induces so consistently in his epistles these several things saying in person "what we have seen with our eyes and heard with our ears and our hands have handled, those things we have written." For thus he professes to be not only an eye witness but also a hearer and a narrator of all the wonderful things of the Lord in their order.
Moreover the acts of all the apostles are written in one book. Luke so comprised them for the most excellent Theophilus because of the individual events that took place in his presence. As he clearly shows by omitting the passion of Peter. As well as the departure of Paul, when Paul went from the city of Rome to Spain.
Now, the epistles of Paul, what they are and for what reason they were sent they themselves make clear to him who will understand.
First of all he wrote at length to the Corinthians to prohibit the system of heresy,
then to the Galatians against circumcision.
And to the Romans on the order of scriptures intimating also that Christ is the chief matter in
Each of which is necessary for us to discuss seeing that the blessed apostle Paul himself,
following the example of his predecessor John, writes to no more than seven churches by
name, in the following order:
But he writes twice for the sake of correction to the Corinthians and to the Thessalonians.
That there is one church defused throughout the whole earth is shown. by this seven fold writing and John also in the Apocalypse. Even though he writes the seven churches, he speaks to all.
But he wrote out of affection and love one to Philemon, one to Titus, two to Timothy and these are held sacred in the honourable esteem of the church catholic, in the regulation of Ecclesiastical discipline.
There are adduced one to the Laodiceans another to the Alexandrians, forged in the name of Paul against the heresy of Marcion. And many others which can not be received into the church catholic for it is not fitting that gall be mixed with honey.
Further an epistle of Jude and two bearing the name of John are counted among the catholic epistles. And Wisdom written by the friends of Solomon in his honour.
We receive the Apocalypses of John and Peter only. Some of us do not wish the Apocalypse of Peter to be read in church.
But Hermas wrote 'the Shepherd' in the city of Rome most recently in our times, when his brother bishop Pious was occupying the chair in the church at Rome. And so indeed it ought to be read but that it be made public to the people in the church and placed among the prophets whose number is complete or among the apostles is not possible to the end of time. Of Arsenus, Valentinus, or Miltiadees we receive nothing at all. Those also who wrote the 'new book of Psalms', Marcion together with Basilides, and the Asian Cataphrigians ...