The earliest witnesses to the New Testament

Discussion about the New Testament, apocrypha, gnostics, church fathers, Christian origins, historical Jesus or otherwise, etc.
Vanished
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The earliest witnesses to the New Testament

Post by Vanished »

Note: This research was originally done for my thread analyzing the origins of the Pauline epistles, but seeing as it also encompasses the remainder of the New Testament (and to a lesser extent, the Old Testament and its deuterocanon) and its hopefully-wide-ranging use, I felt it earned a separate thread.

So, I've been curious on the dating and authorship of the New Testament books for a while now, and I figured what better way to get started than by analyzing the works of all the earliest scholars and bishops in Christianity (first/second century only for the moment - I've begun researching later scholars starting with Clement of Alexandria, but I'm not sure I'll finish) to determine which books of the Bible they used and when those books reached the public and gained the public's respect, if not when those books were authored. I noted some interesting patterns and some useful things to note, but first, the data:

Clement of Rome (35-99):
Epistle to the Corinthians (Clement):
No mentions of Judges, Ruth, 2 Samuel, 2 Kings, 1 Chronicles, 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Matthew, Mark!!, 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Philippians!!, Colossians?, 1 Thessalonians, 2 Thessalonians!!, 1 Timothy?, 2 Timothy?, Philemon, 1 Peter, 2 Peter!!, 2 John!!, 3 John!!, Jude!!, Revelation!!
Hebrews is mentioned often
Titus is mentioned
Judith quoted
Wisdom of Solomon quoted
Note: Due to just how massive of a document this is compared to the rest, I didn't painstakingly track every single verse cited - you can find a general list with this tool suggested by @Peter Kirby - biblindex.org/citation_biblique/?lang=en. Keep in mind, this site is not complete, and I was able to find several definite scriptural references not included here, as well as several dubious or flat-out wrong references that were included. However, I did keep a rough estimate of what scriptures I would to be probably/definitely referenced, which is in the list of references by book of the Bible near the end.

Polycarp of Smyrna (69-155):
Epistle to the Philippians:
Matthew (5:44, 6:12-14, 7:1, 7:2, 26:41)
Luke (6:36-37)
Acts (5:41)
Romans (14:10-12)
1 Corinthians (6:9-10)
2 Corinthians (6:7, 8:21)
Galatians (1:1, 6:7)
Ephesians (2:8-9, 4:26)
1 Timothy (6:7, 6:10)
2 Timothy (2:12)
1 Thessalonians (5:17, 5:22)
1 Peter (1:8, 1:13, 1:21, 2:12, 2:17, 2:21, 2:22, 2:24, 3:9, 4:7, 4:16, 5:5)
1 John (4:3)
Tobit (4:10, 12:9)
"But woe to him by whom the name of the Lord is blasphemed!" - lost scripture?
No mentions of Mark, John, Philippians (2:10? 2:16?), Colossians, 2 Thessalonians, Titus, Philemon, Hebrews, James, 2 Peter, 2 John, 3 John, Jude, Revelation

Ignatius of Antioch (???-108/140):
Epistle to the Ephesians:
Ephesians (5:2)
1 Corinthians (1:10, 1:20, 6:9, 16:18)
1 Peter (2:5)
Matthew 7:20 or 12:33 or Luke 6:44
Matthew 26:7 or Mark 14:3 or John 12:3 or Luke 7:38
James (1:16)
Epistle to the Magnesians:
Matthew (27:52)
Proverbs (18:17)
Epistle to the Trallians:
Colossians (3:12)
1 Corinthians (16:18)
"Woe to him by whose vanity my name is blasphemed among any" - lost scripture?

Epistle to the Romans:
1 Corinthians (4:4, 9:24, 15:8-9)
2 Corinthians (4:18)
Matthew 16:26 or Mark 8:36
Epistle to the Philadelphians:
Galatians (1:1)
James (1:16)
John (3:8)
Epistle to the Smyrnaeans:
Romans (1:3)
Luke (24:39)
Matthew (3:15, 19:12)
1 Corinthians (16:18)
Epistle to Polycarp:
Matthew (10:16)
Ephesians (5:25)
1 Thessalonians (5:17)
1 Corinthians (10:31)
No mentions of Mark, Acts, Philippians, 2 Thessalonians, 1 Timothy (1:1?), 2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon, Hebrews, 2 Peter, 1 John, 2 John, 3 John, Jude, Revelation

Papias of Hierapolis (60-130):
Fragment 5:
John (14:2)
1 Corinthians (15:25-28)
Fragment 6:
1 John?
1 Peter?
Gospel of Hebrews?
Fragment 8:
Revelation?
Note: Fragments 5 is directly quoted from Papias, while fragments 6 and 8 are secondhand testimony that claim Papias used 1 John/1 Peter/Gospel of Hebrews and accepted Revelation. Actual dialogue from Papias regarding these books is lost to time.

Quadratus of Athens (???-129):
N/A - No surviving writings with scriptural references

Pseudo-Clement of Rome (120-140)
2 Clement:
1 Timothy (1:17, 4:16, 6:11)
Note: Seeing as this is pseudo-Clement rather than an actual apostolic father, I only scanned for references to scriptures that were otherwise unattested/little-attested to in the other works above.

?+ = Too many references to count

Apostolic father references by the books of the Bible:
Matthew - 4 Ignatius, 5 Polycarp
Mark - N/A
Luke - 2 (?) Clement, 1 Ignatius, 1 Polycarp
John - 2 (?) Clement, 1 Ignatius, 1 Papias
Acts - 1 Polycarp, 1 Clement
Romans - 1 Polycarp, ?+ Clement, 1 Ignatius
1 Corinthians - 1 Polycarp, ?+ Clement, 10 Ignatius, 1 Corinthians
2 Corinthians - 2 Polycarp, 1 Ignatius
Galatians - 2 Polycarp, 1 Ignatius
Ephesians - 2 Polycarp, 1 Clement, 2 Ignatius
Philippians - N/A
Colossians - 1 Ignatius
1 Thessalonians - 2 Polycarp, 1 Ignatius
2 Thessalonians - N/A
1 Timothy - 2 Polycarp, 3 Pseudo-Clement
2 Timothy - 1 Polycarp
Titus - 1 Clement
Philemon - N/A
Hebrews - ?+ Clement
James - 2 Clement, 2 Ignatius
1 Peter - 12 Polycarp, 1 Ignatius
2 Peter - N/A
1 John - 1 Polycarp, 2 Clement
2 John - N/A
3 John - N/A
Jude - N/A
Revelation - N/A
OT - ?+ Clement, 1 Ignatius (Proverbs)
Noncanonical - 2 Polycarp (Tobit), 2 Clement (Judith, Wisdom)



Now, with the data in front of you, I would like to present some interesting patterns/things to note here, as well as my personal thoughts on what they might mean.

First, as far as the Pauline epistles go - the original reason I did this research - the info gleaned from this is about split down the middle in terms of agreeing with scholarly views on the authorship/dating of these books. 1 Timothy and 2 Timothy are only mentioned in Polycarp's epistles and later works (several prominent scholars have put forth the theory that Polycarp in fact authored these books). Colossians is only attested to once and 2 Thessalonians is not attested to at all, so accounting for a margin of error in my findings, it seems reasonable that these epistles (the disputed epistles) are possibly non-Pauline. However, simultaneously, Ephesians (counted among the disputed scriptures) is WELL accounted for by 3 Apostolic Fathers. Titus, one of the pastorals, has a very early reference in 1 Clement. Hebrews, almost unanimously agreed to be a later work in the style of Paul rather than a genuine Pauline writing, is also utilized heavily in 1 Clement.

Second, some of the smaller books here should not be considered non-extant or private at the time of writing even if they're unattested to. Books like Philemon, 2 John, 3 John, and Jude are so small that the likelihood they would be referenced is exceedingly low, genuine or not.

Third - and this one is really interesting to me - there does not appear to be a SINGLE indisputable reference to Mark in ANY of these writings. There are many possible uses of Mark, but every single one can be mirrored in another gospel. There's not even one reference to unique Markan material or even specifically Markan phrasing, which I find particularly interesting seeing as Markan priority seems to be a very common belief. Maybe Mark was written first but kept private until well after the other gospels were authored? I'm not sure. I feel like I'm missing something here - I'm very new to this after all - but this is certainly something to note.

Fourth, Revelation makes sense not being here, its usefulness was debated for, what, a couple centuries after this? So that's not really a concern to me.

Fifth, Philippians is conspicuously also missing from all these documents. I found many supposed references to Philippians when looking at citations that other scholars had found, but all of them were mirrored in other works of the Bible, so again, no unique material or even phrasing from Philippians.

Sixth, and this isn't something I've given too much thought so there's probably an explanation, but I do find it interesting that Clement doesn't seem to use any unique phrasing or material from Matthew. I would imagine Matthew would be his top pick seeing as he was so fond of the Old Testament compared to other scholars (and to my knowledge Matthew is more in line with the OT than other gospels), but I guess not.

Now, as for what I make of all this. To me, it seems like Titus is a legitimate Pauline writing and shouldn't be counted among the dubious pastoral epistles - it was such a small writing, anyways, that it's damn near impossible to put forth a solid argument for or against its authenticity based on the work itself. 1 Timothy and 2 Timothy are probably non-Pauline works - perhaps just 2 Timothy - and there's a very good chance that one or both were written by Polycarp or at the very least publicized by him. Regarding Mark, my best guess as to why its missing is that it must have been pretty closely guarded in the early years of Christianity - something something, secret knowledge from Jesus, something something. 2 Peter (and to a lesser extent 2/3 John since they're so small) are probably later forgeries which I think (?) is a common consensus - not really sure, I know next to nothing about the general epistles. Matthew, Romans, 1 Corinthians and Ephesians were all very beloved scriptures in early Christianity based on their usage - Polycarp also seems particularly fond of 1 Peter. Tobit, the Wisdom of Solomon and Judith are all mentioned by these early scholars and they do seem to generally believe the works and consider them authentic scripture - though this may simply be because they were included in the Septuagint which is likely what they were using at the time. Hebrews, I'm a bit confused on - I would imagine Polycarp and Ignatius would quote from it often seeing its careful composition and many useful scriptures, but they don't. Maybe because they were writing to Greeks rather than Hebrews? Alternatively, there is a theory proposed by a few respected scholars that Clement was actually the author of the epistle to the Hebrews, so it's possible that he wrote the work, used it in 1 Clement, and Hebrews only made it to the public well after Clement's death. No idea what happened with Philippians, I guess it's maybe just coincidence that it's completely unattested, or perhaps Philippians has a substantial amount of unoriginal material compared to the other epistles so it wouldn't necessarily be needed (I don't know if this is the case, but if it is the case, it could be why Philippians isn't witnessed). I'm also not really sure what the "woe to him" quote in these works that is completely unparalleled in scripture, canonical or otherwise, is referring to. I did Google search it and found nothing, so I doubt it could be an extant non-Christian work, so they've surely either got to be lost writings or oral tradition, right?

Alright, think that's everything. Hopefully this helps as a nice shorthand for research to see whether a particular book/verse has been cited by the apostolic fathers. Feel free to discuss, or tell me where I'm wrong, or chime in with any research, or something. If you want.

Excuse any poor formatting on this thread, I'm operating off 3 hours of sleep. I'm so tired.
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Peter Kirby
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Re: The earliest witnesses to the New Testament

Post by Peter Kirby »

Some very interesting points here. Thank you.
Vanished wrote: Sun Feb 11, 2024 10:07 am Third - and this one is really interesting to me - there does not appear to be a SINGLE indisputable reference to Mark in ANY of these writings. There are many possible uses of Mark, but every single one can be mirrored in another gospel. There's not even one reference to unique Markan material or even specifically Markan phrasing, which I find particularly interesting seeing as Markan priority seems to be a very common belief. Maybe Mark was written first but kept private until well after the other gospels were authored? I'm not sure. I feel like I'm missing something here - I'm very new to this after all - but this is certainly something to note.
Mark Goodacre has a relevant post here:

How similar are the Synoptics, and how do we represent it?
https://ntweblog.blogspot.com/2019/05/h ... do-we.html

Goodacre represents the relationship between Matthew and Mark, in terms of the overlap between them, this way:

Image

And this is his diagram for Luke and Mark:

Image

In other words, by adopting so much of Mark (according to the hypothesis) in Matthew and in Luke, very little is left in terms of passages that are unique to Mark.
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Peter Kirby
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Re: The earliest witnesses to the New Testament

Post by Peter Kirby »

Vanished wrote: Sun Feb 11, 2024 10:07 am First, as far as the Pauline epistles go - the original reason I did this research - the info gleaned from this is about split down the middle in terms of agreeing with scholarly views on the authorship/dating of these books. 1 Timothy and 2 Timothy are only mentioned in Polycarp's epistles and later works (several prominent scholars have put forth the theory that Polycarp in fact authored these books). Colossians is only attested to once and 2 Thessalonians is not attested to at all, so accounting for a margin of error in my findings, it seems reasonable that these epistles (the disputed epistles) are possibly non-Pauline. However, simultaneously, Ephesians (counted among the disputed scriptures) is WELL accounted for by 3 Apostolic Fathers. Titus, one of the pastorals, has a very early reference in 1 Clement.
Many people have suggested that a 10-letter collection (the seven, 2 Thessalonians, Colossians, and Ephesians) circulated independently of the pastoral epistles, and you could say that you have found support for this. This suggestion is found explicitly in the remarks made on the letters of Paul accepted by Marcionites, which were these ten, so you could say that you have found support of the conclusion that they did not exclude the pastoral letters, given that those 3 came later than the rest.

The prevalence of references to Ephesians could be interpreted as support (albeit slight) of Goodspeed's idea that there was an Ephesians-first collection of Paul's letters. The letter of Ephesians is typically viewed as spurious, and it is in Goodspeed's view, but it also is generally viewed to be based on Colossians, so maybe Ephesians overshadowed it.

A lack of references to 2 Thessalonians may be interpreted as support for its inauthenticity, but it could also be viewed as a puzzle from the perspective of the circulation of a 10 letter collection that included 2 Thessalonians.
Vanished wrote: Sun Feb 11, 2024 10:07 amNow, as for what I make of all this. To me, it seems like Titus is a legitimate Pauline writing and shouldn't be counted among the dubious pastoral epistles - it was such a small writing, anyways, that it's damn near impossible to put forth a solid argument for or against its authenticity based on the work itself.
I wonder if we should consider the reference to Titus in 1 Clement more closely.
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Re: The earliest witnesses to the New Testament

Post by Peter Kirby »

Vanished wrote: Sun Feb 11, 2024 10:07 amHebrews, almost unanimously agreed to be a later work in the style of Paul rather than a genuine Pauline writing,
Is it? I view it as an early work, not in the style of Paul, and (importantly) not originally presenting itself as a Pauline writing at all. Instead of being a non-genuine Pauline writing, it would be a text without any intention of being Pauline that came to be falsely attributed to Paul.
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Re: The earliest witnesses to the New Testament

Post by ebion »

Peter Kirby wrote: Sun Feb 11, 2024 10:48 am
Vanished wrote: Sun Feb 11, 2024 10:07 amHebrews, almost unanimously agreed to be a later work in the style of Paul rather than a genuine Pauline writing,
Is it? I view it as an early work, not in the style of Paul, and (importantly) not originally presenting itself as a Pauline writing at all. Instead of being a non-genuine Pauline writing, it would be a text without any intention of being Pauline that came to be falsely attributed to Paul.
I certainly see Hebrews as not being Pauline in its theology as well as style, and assume the later attribution to Paul to be false.

Vanished: what about Hegesippus? I thought he was one of the earliest testifiers. Or do you discount the parts that come to us of him via Euseubius?

FWIW, Revelation Jude 2John 2Peter 3John are not in the Eastern Church canon, and I think the Apostolic Church of the East assumes them not to have been in circulation at the time their canon closed - your work supports that view.

Back to the central question you and I have, do the Paulines have witnesses before 138-144 (Marcion), is there clear evidence of quotes from the best of the Paulines before then? The way your data is formatted it's hard to see that given the broad range of dates you assign to the authors. (Maybe you could narrow the date range if possible to the date range of their wrtings?).
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Re: The earliest witnesses to the New Testament

Post by rgprice »

Thanks for all this, very helpful :)
Titus, one of the pastorals, has a very early reference in 1 Clement.
Be careful with assumptions of dates for these works. First Clement was probably actually authored around 140 to 160.
Last edited by rgprice on Sun Feb 11, 2024 2:20 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Vanished
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Re: The earliest witnesses to the New Testament

Post by Vanished »

Peter Kirby wrote: Sun Feb 11, 2024 10:16 am Some very interesting points here. Thank you.
Vanished wrote: Sun Feb 11, 2024 10:07 am Third - and this one is really interesting to me - there does not appear to be a SINGLE indisputable reference to Mark in ANY of these writings. There are many possible uses of Mark, but every single one can be mirrored in another gospel. There's not even one reference to unique Markan material or even specifically Markan phrasing, which I find particularly interesting seeing as Markan priority seems to be a very common belief. Maybe Mark was written first but kept private until well after the other gospels were authored? I'm not sure. I feel like I'm missing something here - I'm very new to this after all - but this is certainly something to note.
Mark Goodacre has a relevant post here:

How similar are the Synoptics, and how do we represent it?
https://ntweblog.blogspot.com/2019/05/h ... do-we.html

Goodacre represents the relationship between Matthew and Mark, in terms of the overlap between them, this way:

Image

And this is his diagram for Luke and Mark:

Image

In other words, by adopting so much of Mark (according to the hypothesis) in Matthew and in Luke, very little is left in terms of passages that are unique to Mark.
Thanks for this - I do remember from the small amount of synoptic research I've done (an entire can of worms I haven't wanted to open just yet since it seems to be the hottest topic in Christian research and thus the most difficult to research) that most Markan material was reflected in the other gospels, but I didn't realize just how much - I had supposed Mark also had a large chunk of unique material as Matthew/Luke did. Still, I would expect to find at least one or two examples of specifically Markan phrasing - perhaps I'll take a closer look at the potential references to Mark in the ancient Greek to see which gospel most closely resembles the quotations in these early writings.
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Re: The earliest witnesses to the New Testament

Post by rgprice »

Third - and this one is really interesting to me - there does not appear to be a SINGLE indisputable reference to Mark in ANY of these writings. There are many possible uses of Mark, but every single one can be mirrored in another gospel. There's not even one reference to unique Markan material or even specifically Markan phrasing, which I find particularly interesting seeing as Markan priority seems to be a very common belief. Maybe Mark was written first but kept private until well after the other gospels were authored? I'm not sure. I feel like I'm missing something here - I'm very new to this after all - but this is certainly something to note.
Its not just about dating. Mark was by far teh least read, least referenced and least respected Gospels. The view seemed to be that there was little reason to read Mark because Matthew said everything that Mark did and more, and did it better. Since the church fathers thought that the works were independently written, they didn't study them in the way that we do trying to understand intertextual dependencies, etc.
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Re: The earliest witnesses to the New Testament

Post by Vanished »

Peter Kirby wrote: Sun Feb 11, 2024 10:45 am
Vanished wrote: Sun Feb 11, 2024 10:07 am First, as far as the Pauline epistles go - the original reason I did this research - the info gleaned from this is about split down the middle in terms of agreeing with scholarly views on the authorship/dating of these books. 1 Timothy and 2 Timothy are only mentioned in Polycarp's epistles and later works (several prominent scholars have put forth the theory that Polycarp in fact authored these books). Colossians is only attested to once and 2 Thessalonians is not attested to at all, so accounting for a margin of error in my findings, it seems reasonable that these epistles (the disputed epistles) are possibly non-Pauline. However, simultaneously, Ephesians (counted among the disputed scriptures) is WELL accounted for by 3 Apostolic Fathers. Titus, one of the pastorals, has a very early reference in 1 Clement.
Many people have suggested that a 10-letter collection (the seven, 2 Thessalonians, Colossians, and Ephesians) circulated independently of the pastoral epistles, and you could say that you have found support for this. This suggestion is found explicitly in the remarks made on the letters of Paul accepted by Marcionites, which were these ten, so you could say that you have found support of the conclusion that they did not exclude the pastoral letters, given that those 3 came later than the rest.

The prevalence of references to Ephesians could be interpreted as support (albeit slight) of Goodspeed's idea that there was an Ephesians-first collection of Paul's letters. The letter of Ephesians is typically viewed as spurious, and it is in Goodspeed's view, but it also is generally viewed to be based on Colossians, so maybe Ephesians overshadowed it.

A lack of references to 2 Thessalonians may be interpreted as support for its inauthenticity, but it could also be viewed as a puzzle from the perspective of the circulation of a 10 letter collection that included 2 Thessalonians.
Vanished wrote: Sun Feb 11, 2024 10:07 amNow, as for what I make of all this. To me, it seems like Titus is a legitimate Pauline writing and shouldn't be counted among the dubious pastoral epistles - it was such a small writing, anyways, that it's damn near impossible to put forth a solid argument for or against its authenticity based on the work itself.
I wonder if we should consider the reference to Titus in 1 Clement more closely.
I had not heard of Goodspeed's idea regarding Ephesians priority in the Pauline letter collection, but that would certainly explain what we find here - thanks for referencing that, I'd love to look further into his work.

As for Titus, I looked at it quite closely as I wanted to be sure that the writing was indeed referenced seeing as it would be a VERY early reference, but I can't seem to see this passage from 1 Clement in any other way:

1 Clement 1:3 - "... the women ye charged to perform all their duties in a blameless and seemly and pure conscience, cherishing their own husbands, as is meet; and ye taught them to keep in the rule of obedience, and to manage the affairs of their household in seemliness, with all discretion."

Titus 2:4,5 (KJV) - "That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed."

Every specific trait from 1 Clement listed as being part of a pure conscience (cherishing husbands, being obedient, managing the home, being discreet) is directly paralleled in Titus 2:4-5. I suppose it could be coincidental, or perhaps both Titus and 1 Clement made use of a saying or external writing, but my money's on Occam's razor - if Clement often referenced the Paulines, and it sounds like he's directly referencing a Pauline, he probably is.
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Re: The earliest witnesses to the New Testament

Post by rgprice »

Based on the introductions to the Pauline letters, sometimes called Marcionite introductions, it would appear that the Pauline letter collection would have been a collection to "seven churches", with Philemon being included in the letter to the Colossians.
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