I received a comment on my Real Jesus V-Log from a skeptic who claims that the early church fathers doubted the canonicity of 2 Peter, Hebrews and Revelation. When I asked for examples he gave me Eusebius, Jerome, Origin and Amphilochius.
(If you’ve never heard of Amphilochius of Iconium, he is one of the Eastern Fathers, a contemporary of St. Basil of Caesaria and Gregory of Nazianzus.)
It’s interesting that he cited mainly Post-Nicene fathers who lived after the fourth century. Origen lived in the third century and he did not question the integrity of the canon. On the contrary, he affirmed the canon exactly as we know it today.
The simple fact of the matter is every one of the books of the New Testament is quoted by church fathers of the first and second century.
Hebrews is among the earliest books to be quoted. It is first found in the Epistle of 1 Clement. By 96 A.D. (some say much earlier) we have Clement of Rome quoting extensively from Hebrews. Other early fathers quoting from Hebrews are Hermas, Hippolytus, Irenaeus and Tertullian. Hebrews was universally accepted and no one records any doubt that Paul was the author until the fourth century.
2 Peter is supposedly a problem for the authenticity of the canon. However, Theophilus of Antioch quotes directly from 2 Peter. Clement of Rome makes five allusions to 2 Peter. Although liberal scholars dispute this, other allusions to 2 Peter may be found in the Didache, St. Ignatius, the Epistle of Barnabas, Hermas, the Epistle of Polycarp to the Philippians, the Dialogue of Justin with Trypho, the Apology of Aristides, and Irenaeus.
Although direct references are hard to prove, it may be due to the brevity of the epistle and the similarity of chapter 2 with Jude, which comprises about one-third of the book. In other words, biased liberals often interpret quotes and allusions to be from Jude, but they could be allusions to 2 Peter 2. Likewise, liberal scholars also dispute the books of Jude, 2 John and 3 John on the basis that they receive little attention from the Ante-Nicene Fathers. However, these four books are the shortest of the general epistles and therefore they are the most likely not to be quoted.
Revelation also has strong evidence for a pedigree. The early church attributed authorship of Revelation to the apostle John. Justin Martyr (100-165 A.D.) quotes Revelation 20 that Jesus Christ would dwell in Jerusalem one thousand years. Irenaeus (120-200 A.D.) quotes every chapter of Revelation. Tertullian (155-220 A.D.) quotes from almost every chapter of Revelation and attributes John the Apostle as author. Hippolytus (170-235 A.D.) attributed Revelation to John and quotes extensively from Revelation chapter 17 and 18. Clement of Alexandria (150-211 A.D.) and Origen (185-254 A.D.) also attribute John the Apostle as the author of Revelation.
Ignatius (30-108 A.D.) writes regarding John the Apostle, “And why such facts as the following: Peter was crucified; Paul and James were slain with the sword; John was banished to Patmos; Stephen was stoned to death by the Jews who killed the Lord? But, [in truth,] none of these sufferings were in vain; for the Lord was really crucified by the ungodly.”
The evidence against John the Apostle being the author is minimal, largely based on grammatical style differences with the John’s Gospel. As a partial preterist, I hold the view that Revelation was written either during or just prior to the Neronian persecution in 64 A.D. not in the mid-90s during Domitian’s persecution. Revelation was written under extreme duress by a fisherman with a rough knowledge of Koine Greek. Later, the Gospel and three Epistles were written by in Ephesus with the assistance of his elders, as evidenced by the numerous “we” passages. The composition of these later books was more polished for that reason.
Revelation was not, in fact, disputed by Origen. However, some of Origen’s students disputed it. This theory arose because many erroneously interpreted Revelation to teach a premillennial return of Jesus. By the time of Athanasius and Augustine, much of the church had turned to an amillennial view of eschatology and sought to discredit John as the author of the supposedly premillennial book.
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