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January 25, 2017

Gregory the Theologian on the Canon of Holy Scripture

Gregory of Nazianzus (329-389) was one of the great defenders of the orthodox faith (as defined in the Nicene Creed) during the second half of the fourth century. His famous discourses on the Trinity did much to revive the strength of the orthodox party in Constantinople, where he served as archbishop from 378 to 382. His pronouncement on the canon was given towards the end of his life, in the form of a poem: "Concerning the Genuine Books of Divinely Inspired Scripture," reproduced below. Like Athanasius, his enumeration of the Old Testament books omits Esther. The Revelation of John is also missing from his list of the New Testament books, due to a general reaction against this book in the east after excessive use was made of it by the Montanist cults.

The Greek text below is from the works of Gregory in vol. 37 of Migne's Patrologia Graeca, cols. 471-474.

ΙΒʹ. Περὶ τῶν γνησίων βιβλίων τῆς θεοπνεύστου Γραφῆς.
Concerning the Genuine Books of Divinely Inspired Scripture

Θείοις ἐν λογίοισιν ἀεὶ γλώσσῃ τε νόῳ τε
The divine oracles should always on the tongue and in the mind
Στρωφᾶσθ'· ἢ γὰρ ἔδωκε Θεὸς καμάτων τόδ' ἄεθλον,
be rehearsed. For God will indeed give a reward for this labor,
Καί τι κρυπτὸν ἰδεῖν ὀλίγον φάος, ἢ τόδ' ἄριστον,
so that you may obtain light from anything hidden, or, what is far better,
Νύττεσθαι καθαροῖο Θεοῦ μεγάλῃσιν ἐφετμαῖς·
that you may be spurred by God to greater purity,
Ἢ τρίτατον, χθονίων ἀπάγειν φρένα ταῖσδε μερίμναις.
and thirdly, be called away from the cares of the world by such study.
Ὄφρα δὲ μὴ ξείνῃσι νόον κλέπτοιο βίβλοισι
But let not extraneous books seduce your mind.
(Πολλαὶ γὰρ τελέθουσι παρέγγραπτοι κακότητες),
For many malignant writings have been disseminated.
∆έχνυσο τοῦτον ἐμεῖο τὸν ἔγκριτον, ὦ φίλ', ἀριθμόν.
Accept, o friend, this my approved number.
Ἱστορικαὶ μὲν ἔασι βίβλοι δυοκαίδεκα πᾶσαι
These are all twelve of the historical books,
Τῆς ἀρχαιοτέρης Ἑβραϊκῆς σοφίης.
of the most ancient Hebrew wisdom:
Πρωτίστη, Γένεσις, εἶτ' Ἔξοδος, Λευιτικόν τε.
First there is Genesis, then Exodus, Leviticus too.
Ἔπειτ' Ἀριθμοί. Εἶτα ∆εύτερος Νόμος.
Then Numbers, and the Second Law.
Ἔπειτ' Ἰησοῦς, καὶ Κριταί. Ῥοὺθ ὀγδόη.
Then Joshua and Judges. Ruth is eighth.
Ἡ δ' ἐνάτη δεκάτη τε βίβλοι, Πράξεις βασιλήων,
The ninth and tenth books [are] the acts of Kings,
Καὶ Παραλειπόμεναι. Ἔσχατον Ἔσδραν ἔχεις.
and [the eleventh is] Chronicles. Last you have Ezra.
Αἱ δὲ στιχηραὶ πέντε, ὧν πρῶτός γ' Ἰώβ·
The poetic books are five: Job being first,
Ἔπειτα ∆αυΐδ· εἶτα τρεῖς Σολομωντίαι·
then [the Psalms of] David; and three of Solomon,
Ἐκκλησιαστὴς, Ἄσμα καὶ Παροιμίαι.
Ecclesiastes, Canticles and Proverbs.
Καὶ πένθ' ὁμοίως Πνεύματος προφητικοῦ.
And similarly five of prophetic inspiration.
Μίαν μέν εἰσιν ἐς γραφὴν οἱ δώδεκα·
There are the Twelve written in one book:
Ὠσηὲ κ' Ἀμὼς, καὶ Μιχαίας ὁ τρίτος·
Hosea and Amos, and Micah the third;
Ἔπειτ' Ἰωὴλ, εἶτ' Ἰωνᾶς, Ἀβδίας,
then Joel, and Jonah, Obadiah,
Ναούμ τε, Ἀββακούμ τε, καὶ Σοφονίας,
Nahum also, and Habakkuk, and Zephaniah,
Ἀγγαῖος, εἶτα Ζαχαρίας, Μαλαχίας.
Haggai, then Zechariah, and Malachi.
Μία μὲν οἵδε. ∆ευτέρα δ' Ἡσαΐας.
All these are one. The second is of Isaiah.
Ἔπειθ' ὁ κληθεὶς Ἱερεμίας ἐκ βρέφους.
Then the one called as an infant, Jeremiah,
Εἶτ' Ἰεζεκιὴλ, καὶ ∆ανιήλου χάρις.
Then Ezekiel, and the gift of Daniel.
Ἀρχαίας μὲν ἔθηκα δύω καὶ εἴκοσι βίβλους,
I count therefore, twenty-two of the ancient books,
Τοῖς τῶν Ἑβραίων γράμμασιν ἀντιθέτους.
corresponding to the number of the Hebrew letters.
Ἤδη δ' ἀρίθμει καὶ νέου μυστηρίου.
Now count also those of the new mystery.
Ματθαῖος μὲν ἔγραψεν Ἑβραίοις θαύματα Χριστοῦ·
Matthew wrote the miracles of Christ for the Hebrews,
Μάρκος δ' Ἰταλίῃ, Λουκᾶς Ἀχαϊάδι·
Mark for Italy, Luke for Greece;
Πᾶσι δ' Ἰωάννης, κήρυξ μέγας, οὐρανοφοίτης.
John for all, the great herald, who walked in the heavens.
Ἔπειτα Πράξεις τῶν σοφῶν ἀποστόλων.
Then the acts of the wise apostles.
∆έκα δὲ Παύλου τέσσαρές τ' ἐπιστολαί.
Of Paul there are fourteen epistles.
Ἑπτὰ δὲ καθολικαὶ, ὧν, Ἰακώβου μία,
And the seven catholic, [which include] one of James,
∆ύω δὲ Πέτρου, τρεῖς δ' Ἰωάννου πάλιν·
two of Peter, three of John also;
Ἰούδα δ' ἐστὶν ἑβδόμη. Πάσας ἔχεις.
and Jude is the seventh. You have them all.
Εἴ τι δὲ τούτων ἐκτὸς, οὐκ ἐν γνησίαις.
And if there are any beyond these, they are not genuine.