Updated: Apr 16, 2020
14. A distribution of the material into books Historical, Dogmatic, and Prophetic. Why were the Dogmatic books delivered in the form of Epistles? Why were seven Epistles Catholic, Canonical, ἐγκύκλιοι/circular? Interpreters of all the Books of the New Testament, Ancient, Reformed, Lutheran, and Roman Catholic; and a Synoptic Table.
The distribution the books of the New Testament with respect to matter yet remains. And indeed, Saint Athanasius in his Synopsismakes the New Testament ὀγδότεχον, of eight volumes or parts, four books being Gospels, the fifth the Acts of the Apostles, the sixth the seven Catholic Epistles, the seventh the fourteen Pauline Epistles, the eighththe Apocalypse of John. But Leontius Byzantinus, libro de Sectis, Action 2, distributed the books of the New Testament εἰς ἓξ βιβλία, into six books; of which the firstcontains Matthew and Mark, the second Luke and John, the thirdActs, the fourth the seven Catholic Epistles, the fifth the fourteen Pauline Epistles, the sixth Revelation. But in imitation of more recent men the entire New Testament is divided more advantageously into three classes, in such a way that some books are Historical, others Dogmatic, one Prophetic. For, even if in the Historical BooksDoctrines and Prophecies are also found, and in the Dogmatic BooksHistories and Prophecies, and in the Prophetic Book histories and doctrines, in such a way that they are each σύμμικτα/mixed; nevertheless, from the better part of the argument, and from the very scope/goal of the books, if a distribution be sought, that which we have expressed shall not be reckoned disadvantageous. Therefore, the books of the New Testament are:
I. Historical, comprehending the history of Christ and of the Apostles. See:
1. The History of Christ, related by the four Evangelists, in which are:
a. Saint Matthew, by whom are woven together Christ’s description and revelation (chapters 1, 2), His forerunner, John the Baptist, engaged in his office (chapter 3), and also His acts, that is, His doctrine and miracles (chapters 4-25), sufferings (chapters 26, 27), and the glory of His resurrection (chapter 28): twenty-eight chapters.
b. Saint Mark, including the History of the ministry of John (chapter 1:1-8), the preparation of Christ for the undertaking of His office (chapter 1:9-13), the actions, doctrine, and miracles of the same (chapters 1:14-14:72), His sufferings (chapter 15), and the glory of His resurrection and ascension into Heaven (chapter 16): sixteen chapters.
c. Saint Luke, weaving together the nativity of John, the forerunner of Christ (chapter 1), the nativity and infancy of Christ (chapter 2), and His actions, doctrine, and miracles (chapters 3-21), and also His sufferings (chapters 22, 23), and the glory of His resurrection and ascension into Heaven (chapter 24): twenty-four chapters.
d. Saint John, in which the person and coming of Christ is described (chapter 1:1-18), the ministry of John the Baptist is narrated (chapter 1:19-37), Christ’s actions, doctrine, miracles (chapters 1:38-13:38), sufferings (chapters 14-19), and the glory of His resurrection are expounded (chapters 20, 21): twenty-one chapters.
2. The History of the Apostles, the Actsof whom comprehend the history of the common Apostles, preaching the Gospel among the Jews, both within, and outside of the holy land (chapters 1-12), and also the proclamation of the Gospel promiscuously among the Jews and the Gentiles, especially by the ministry of Saint Paul, all the way to Rome (chapters 13-28): twenty-eight chapters in the Acts of the Apostles.
II. Dogmatic, in which principally are treated the doctrine of faith and life. These books each have the form of Epistles written to the Churches, either all or particular, or even individual persons, with the pious ancients beautifully observing that finally in the New Testament, in which God spoke familiarly with us through His Son, Hebrews 1:1, the mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven began to be committed to writing through Epistles, since an Epistle is nothing other than a familiar discussion with the soul. Now, these Epistles are of two sorts:
1. Pauline, that is, all those written by Saint Paul as author. For, even if those that are called Catholic, in ancient Codices, even our most carefully corrected Caroline Codex, precede in the order of placement, we prefer to have the Pauline Epistles follow, which is the arrangement received today, and also the order of time in which they were written. Now, those are fourteen in number, written:
a. To the Romans, in which, after the exordium/introduction of the Epistle (chapter 1:1-16), it is demonstrated that the Gospel of Christ is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believes, since in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith (chapters 1:17-8:39), even indeed to the Jew first, then to the Greek (chapters 9-11); and the precepts of a life suited to the grace of the believer’s calling are delivered (chapters 12:1-15:13), and the Epistle is closed (chapters 15:14-16:27): sixteen chapters.
b. A former to the Corinthians, in which the Corinthians, chided because of schisms, are incited to preserve unity (chapters 1-4); the same are rebuked on account of the neglect of the discipline of the incestuous, lawsuits at court, and impurity of life (chapters 5, 6); they are instructed concerning virginity and marriage (chapter 7), things sacrificed to idols, the habit of women in the Church, and communion of the Lord’s table (chapters 8-11), spiritual gifts (chapters 12-14), and the resurrection of the dead (chapter 15); and the Epistle is closed (chapter 16): sixteen chapters.
c. A latter to the Corinthians, in which are narrated the travels of Saint Paul, and what things befell him here and there, with various digressions interspersed (chapters 1-9); and Saint Paul defends his Apostolate, and the power committed to him (chapters 10-13): thirteen chapters.
d. To the Galatians, in which Saint Paul defends the truth of the Gospel preached by him, and especially the liberty of the New Testament (chapters 1:1-5:13), and teaches the use and abuse of Christian liberty (chapters 5:14-6:18): six chapters.
e. To the Ephesians, in which both the mysteries of the faith and of salvation are expounded (chapters 1-3), and the duties of the Christian life, through which one walks worthily of Christ’s calling, are taught (chapters 4-6): six chapters.
f. To the Philippians, in which he, making mention of his love for them, and the use of his bounds, exhorts them to a holy conversation (chapter 1), commends unity, humility, the working out of salvation with fear, and their shared joy (chapter 2), forewarns of seducers and directs them to pursue the true righteousness of faith and perfection (chapter 3), and exhorts to concord, comforts, and commends their beneficence towards himself (chapter 4): four chapters.
g. To the Colossians, in which he rejoices in their faith and love towards the saints (chapter 1:1-8), exhorts them to seek the growth of their faith, and to beware of those that would seduce them from Christ (chapters 1:9-2:23), and commends the exercises of faith and piety (chapters 3, 4): four chapters.
h. A former to the Thessalonians, in which he, in the form of thanksgiving and prayer, exhorts to constancy (chapters 1-3), and commends duties worthy of a Christian profession (chapters 4, 5): five chapters.
i. A latter to the Thessalonians, in which he comforts them as they undergo persecutions (chapter 1), instructs them concerning the coming of the Lord, and the signs preceding it, and the seduction to be avoided (chapters 2:1-3:5), and commands to avoid brethren walking in a disorderly manner (chapters 3:6-18): three chapters.
k. A former to Timothy, in which he advises concerning the retention of sound doctrine, concerning the use and abuse of the law, and the doctrine of the Gospel (chapter 1), sets forth precepts concerning prayers and the habit of women (chapter 2), forms the idea of Bishops, Deacons, and the Church (chapter 3), publishes a prophecy concerning the Apostasy (chapter 4), prescribes to the Bishop his duty toward the elderly, widows, elders to be ordained (chapter 5), servants; he warns those teaching of the danger of avarice, explains the duty of the rich, and prohibits vain questions (chapter 6): six chapters.
l. A latter to Timothy, in which he advises him concerning the stirring up of his gift, patience, and the holding of the form of doctrine (chapter 1), exhorts him to courage, the delivery of pure doctrine to others, patience, and purity of life (chapter 2), publishes a prophecy concerning the last times (chapter 3), and stirs him up to faithful and constant preaching (chapter 4): four chapters.
m. To Titus, in which, advising him concerning attending to the ministry in Crete (chapter 1), he dictates to him precepts to be communicated to various sorts of men (chapters 2, 3): three chapters.
n. To Philemon, in which, giving thanks to God for his faith and love (verses 1-9), he commends Onesimus to him (verses 10-25): one chapter.
o. To the Hebrews, in which he exhorts them to attend to Christ, the Son of God and of man, and the great Prophet (chapters 1:1-4:13); admonishes them to trust in Christ alone as High Priest, with the servitude of the law set aside (chapters 4:14-10:23); and exhorts them to faith, hope, patience and holiness (chapters 10:24-13:35): thirteen chapters.
2. Catholic, so called by the ancients, that is, universal, κοιναὶ ἐγκύκλιοι· Οὐ γὰρ ἀφωρισμένως ἔθνει ἐνὶ, ἢ πόλει, ἀλλὰ καθόλου τοῖς πιστοῖς ἐγράφησαν, common or circular, as it were: For they were written, not privately to any one nation, or city, but to all the faithful in general: these words belong to Œcumenius on James 1. Therefore, they were also called ἐγκύκλιοι/circularsby the ancients. Now, a thing is ἐγκύκλιον, according to the Etymologicum magnum, ἁπανταχοῦ καθολικόν, which is everywhere common or universal. But they also go by the name of Canonicalin Jerome, præludio super Epistolis Catholicis, Lyra, and others, which is to be taken, not exclusively, but ἐξοχικῶς/eminently and ἐξαιρέτως/specially; because, as Dionysius Carthusianus reckons in his Proœmio Catholicarum, they were written by diverse authors, and, since they were not able to receive a certain, particular name from one of them, some common name was to be attributed to them, and that worthy and venerable. Unless perhaps they were so called either through error, as Beza judges, or for this reason, that, since there was doubt concerning them for some time (for that Most Ancient Syriac Translation omitted them), the Church admitted them into the canon by common consent. They are reckoned by the Ancients as seven, of which only five were ἀληθῶς/truly Catholic, two, namely, the second and third of John, ἀκύρῶς/ improperly, because they are reckoned a certain part of first John, as it were. Whence in the Greek Codices they do not go by the name of καθολικῶν/Catholic. Therefore, these are the Epistles, according to the order established by Saint Jerome according to the Greek codices, and canon 59 of the Council of Laodicea:
a. Of Saint James, in which there is a treatment of patience in temptations, and the origin of these temptations (chapter 1), partiality in preferring the rich, and the necessity of demonstrating faith by works (chapter 2), the bridling of the tongue, and honest and peaceful conduct (chapter 3), the cause of wars, obedience, grief, detraction, and opportunity for good works (chapter 4), the calamities of the rich, patience, veracity, and charity towards the sick and erring (chapter 5): five chapters.
b. Of Saint Peter, two, of which
α. In the former, giving thanks for grace and hope, given in temptations distributed to the faithful (chapter 1:1-12), he prescribes duties to all the faithful, and to certain orders of men (chapters 1:13-5:14): five chapters.
β. In the latter, he exhorts to constancy and progress in the faith and study of piety (chapter 1), and publishes a Prophecy concerning impious false teachers and mockers of the coming of the Lord, and their judgment (chapters 2, 3): three chapters.
c. Of Saint John, three, of which
α. In the first, he delivers the doctrine concerning Christ, the true light, communion with Him, remission of sins through Him (chapter 1), propitiation through Christ, the marks of faith, obedience toward God, charity towards the brethren, and, opposed to both, the Antichrist and love of the world (chapter 2), privileges acquired through Christ, and the duties of the sons of God, faith and love (chapter 3), proving of the spirits, and the love of God and neighbor (chapter 4), and finally the use of faith in Christ, and the avoidance of idolatry (chapter 5): chapter 5.
β. In the second, he asks of God grace for the elect Lady (verses 1-4), commends her for the acknowledgement of the truth, and exhorts her to constancy (verses 5-13): one chapter.
γ. In the third, he asks prosperity for Gaius (verses 1, 2), commends his faith and beneficence, reproves Diotrephes, and commends Demetrius (verses 3-14): one chapter.
d. Of Jude, in which he prays for good things to those that are called and sanctified (verses 1, 2), solemnly exhorts them to contend for the faith once delivered (verses 3-23), and glorifies God (verses 24, 25): one chapter.
III. One Prophetic, in which the future events of the Church are foretold: namely,
Revelation, in which, after the exordium/introduction of the book (chapter 1:1-11), seven visions are presented, concerning the state of Christ’s militant Church in the earth (chapters 1:12-22:5); and the book, and the whole canon of Scripture, is sealed with an Epilogue (chapter 22:6-21): twenty-two chapters.
Leontius of Byzantium (485-543) was a Byzantine monk and ascetic. He wrote five treatises in defense of the theology of Chalcedon, and he is sometimes called Scholasticus, being early in the use of Aristotelian categories in theological formulation. The Etymologicum Magnum is a Greek lexical encyclopedia, compiled from the Etymologium Geniunum, the Etymologium Gudianum, Stephanus of Byzantium, etc., circa 1150 in Constantinople. Its author is unknown. Little is known about the early life of Nicholas de Lyra (1270-1340). He entered the Franciscan Order and became a teacher of some repute in Paris. His Postilla in Vetus et Novum Testamentum are remarkable for the time period: Lyra was firmly committed to the literal sense of the text, as a necessary control for allegorical exposition; and he drew heavily upon Hebraic and Rabbinical materials. His commentary was influential among the Reformers. Denis the Carthusian (1402-1471) was a Carthusian monk, theologian, and mystic, considered by some to be the last of the Schoolmen. He commented on the entire Bible. The Council of Laodicea (anno 364) was a regional synod, composed of about thirty ministers of Asia Minor. It was principally concerned with the regulation of the manners of church members, but it also provided a list of the Books of the New Testament (omitting Revelation), forbidding the public reading of others.
Dr. Dilday's Lecture: "The Text of the New Testament: Translation Choice"