Antilegomena (ἀντιλεγόμενα, contradicted or disputed), an epithet applied by the early Christian writers to denote those books of the New Testament which, although known to all the ecclesiastical writers, and sometimes publicly read in the churches, were not for a considerable time atdmitted to be genuine, or received into the canon of Scripture. These books are so denominated irn contradistinction to the homologoumena (), or universally acknowledged writings. The following is a catalogue of the Antilegomena: The Second Epistle of Peter; the Epistle of James; the Epistle of Jude; the Second and Third Epistles of John; the Apocalypse, or Revelation of John; the Epistle to the Hebrews.
The earliest notice which we have of this distinction is that contained in the Ecclesiastical History of Eusebius, who flourished A.D. 270-340. He seems to have formed a triple, or, as it appears to some, a quadruple division of the books of the New Testament, terming them —
1, the homologoumena (received);
2, the antilegomena (controverted);
3, the notha (spurious); and
4, those which he calls the utterly spurious, as being not only spurious in the same sense as the former, but also absurd or impious.
Among the spurious he reckons the Acts of Paul, the Shepherd of Hermas, the Revelation of Peter, the Epistle of Barnabas, and the Instructions of the Apostles. He speaks doubts fully as to the class to which the Apocalypse belongs, for he himself includes it among the spurious: he then observes that some reject it, while others reckon it among the acknowledged writings (homologoumena). Among the spurious writings he also enumerates the Gospel according to the Hebrews. He adds, at the same time, that all these may be classed among the antilegomena. His account is consequently confused, not to say contradictory. Among the utterly spurious he reckons such books as the heretics brought forward under pretense of their being genuine productions of the apostles, such as the so-called Gospels of Peter, Thomas, and Matthias, and the Acts of Andrew, John, and the other apostles. These he distinguishes from the antilegomena, as being works which not one of the ancient ecclesiastical writers thought worthy of being cited. Their style he considers so remote from that of the apostles, and their contents so much at variance with the genuine doctrines of Scripture, as to show them to have been the inventions of heretics, and not worthy of a place even among the spurious writings. These latter he has consequently been supposed to have considered as the compositions of orthodox men, written with good intentions, but calculated by their: titles to mislead the ignorant, who might be disposed to account them as apostolical productions, to which honor they had not even a dubious claim. (See Eusebius, Hist. Eccles. 3, 5, 25.) The same historian has also preserved the testimony of Origen, who, in his Commentary on John (cited by Eusebius), observes: "Peter, upon whom the Church of Christ is built, against which the gates of hell shall not prevail, has left one epistle undisputed; it may be, also, a second, but of this there is some doubt. What shall we say of him who reclined on the breast of Jesus, John, who has left one Gospel, in which he confesses that he could write so many that the whole world could not contain them? He also wrote the Apocalypse, being commanded to conceal, and not to write, the voices of the seven thunders. He has also left us an epistle consisting of very few lines (στίχοι); it may be also a second and third are from him, but all do not concur in their genuineness; both together do not contain a hundred st'chi" (for the signification of this word, see Christian
Remembrancer, 3, 465 sq.). And again, in his Homilies, "The epistle with the title 'To the Hebrews' has not that peculiar style which belongs to an apostle who confesses that he is but rude in speech, that is, in his phraseology. But that this epistle is more pure Greek in the composition of its phrases, every one will confess who is able to discern the difference of style. Again, it will be obvious that the ideas of the apostle are admirable, and not inferior to any of the books acknowledged to be apostolic. Every one will confess the truth of this who attentively reads the apostle's writings. . . . . I would say, that the thoughts are the apostle's, but that the diction and phraseology belong to some one who has recorded what the apostle has said, and as one who has noted down at his leisure what his master dictated. If, then, any Church considers this epistle as coming from Paul, let him be commended for this, for neither did these eminent men deliver it for this without cause: but who it was that really wrote the epistle God only knows. The account, however, that has been current before our time is, according to some, that Clement, who was bishop of Rome, wrote the epistle; according to others, that it was written by Luke, who wrote the Gospel and the Acts" (Euseb. Hist. Eccles. 6, 25).
Upon other occasions Origen expresses his doubts in regard to the antilegomena, as, where, in his commentary on John's Gospel, he speaks of the reputed (φερομένη) Epistle of James, and in his commentary on Matthew, where he uses the phrase, "If we acknowledge the Epistle of Jude;" and of the Second and Third Epistles of John he observes, that "all do not acknowledge them as genuine;" by which epithet, we presume, he means written by the person to whom they are ascribed. It is remarkable that Eusebius (2, 23; 3, 25) classes the Epistle of James, the Acts of Paul, the Shepherd of Hermas, and the Epistle of Barnabas, at one time with the spurious, and at another with the antilegomena. By the word spurious, in this instance at least, he can mean no more than that the genuineness of such books was disputed; as, for instance, the Gospel of the Hebrews, which was received by the Ebionites as a genuine production of the Evangelist Matthew. This is the work of which Jerome made a transcript, as he himself informs us, from the copy preserved by the zeal of Pamphilus in the Caesarean Library. He also informs us that he translated it into Greek, and that it was considered by most persons as the original Gospel of Matthew (Dialog. contra Pelag. 3, 2, and Comment. in Matthew 12). Whether the Shepherd of Hermas was ever included among the antilegomena seems doubtful. Eusebius informs us that "it was disputed, and consequently not placed among the homologoumena. By others, however, it is judged most necessary, especially'to those who need an elementary introductions hence we know that it has been already in public use in our churches, and I have also understood, by tradition, that some of the most ancient writers have made use of it" (3, 3). Origen speaks of The Shepherd as "commonly used by the Church, but not received as divine by the unanimous consent of all." He therefore cites it, not as authority, but simply by way of illustration (lib. 10, in Epist. ad Roman.). Eusebius further informs us that in his own time there were some in the Church of Rome who did not regard the Epistle to the Hebrews as the production of the Apostle Paul (Paul 6:25; 3:3). Indeed, it was through the influence of Jerome that the Church of Rome, at a much later period, was with much difficulty brought to acknowledge it as canonical. "The most ancient Latin or Western Church did not rank it among the canonical writings, though the epistle was well known to them, for Clement of Rome has quoted from it many passages. It is true that some Latin writers in the fourth century received it, among whom was Jerome himself; yet even in the time of Jerome the Latin Church had not placed it among the canonical writings" (Marsh's Michaelis, 4, 266). "The reputed Epistle to the Hebrews," says Jerome, "is supposed not to be Paul's on account of the difference of style, but it is believed to have been written by Barnabas, according to Tertullian, or by Luke the Evangelist; according to others, by Clement, afterward bishop of the Roman Church, who is said to have reduced to order and embellished Paul's sentiments in his own language; or at least that Paul, in writing to the Hebrews, had purposely omitted all mention of his name, in consequence of the odium attached to it, and wrote to them eloquently in Hebrew, as a Hebrew of the Hebrews, and that what he thus eloquently wrote in Hebrew was still more eloquently written in Greek, and that this was the cause of the difference in style" (Ex Catalog.). And again, in his epistle to Dardanus, "I must acquaint our people that the epistle which is inscribed 'To the Hebrews' is acknowledged as the Apostle Paul's, not only by the Churches of the East, but by all the Greek ecclesiastical writers, although most [of the Latins?] conceive it to be either written by Barnabas or Clement, and that it matters nothing by whom it was written, as it proceeds from a churchman (ecclesiastici viri), and is celebrated by being daily read in the churches. But if the custom of the Latins does not receive it among canonical Scriptures, nor the Greek Churches the Apocalypse of St. John, I, notwithstanding, receive them both, not following the custom of the present age, but the authority of ancient writers; not referring to them as they are in the habit of doing with respect to apocryphal writings, and citations from classical and profane authors, but as canonical and ecclesiastical." "Peter also," says Jerome, "wrote two epistles called Catholic; the second of which is denied by most on account of the difference of style (Ex Catalog.). Jude is rejected by most in consequence of the citation from the apocryphal book of Enoch. Notwithstanding, it has authority by use and antiquity, and is accounted among the Holy Scriptures" (Ibid.) and in his Letter to Paulinus: "Paul wrote to seven churches, but the Epistle to the Hebrews is by most excluded from the number;" and in his commentary on Isaiah, he observes that "the Latin usage does not receive the Epistle to the Hebrews among the canonical books." Contemporary with Jerome was his antagonist Ruffinus, who reckons fourteen epistles of Paul, two of Peter, one of James, three of John, and the Apocalypse.
It seems doubtful whether, antecedent to the times of Jerome and Ruffinus, any councils, even of single churches, had settled upon the canon of Scripture, and decided the question respecting the antilegomena, for the removal of doubts among their respective communities; for it seems evident that the general or oecumenical council of Nice, which met in the year 325, formed no catalogue. The first catalogue, indeed, which has come down to us is that of an anonymous writer of the third century. He reckons thirteen epistles of Paul, accounts the Epistle to the Hebrews the work of an Alexandrian Marcionite, mentions the Epistle of Jude, two of John, and the revelations of John and Peter, saying, with respect to them, that "some among us are opposed to their being read in the church" (see Hug's Introduction, § 14). But soon after the council of Nice public opinion turned gradually in favor of the antilegomena, or controverted books; for we then find them for the first time cited without any marks of doubt as to their canonicity. Thus, in the year 348, Cyril of Jerusalem enumerates fourteen epistles of Paul and seven Catholic epistles. Gregory of Nazianzus, who, according to Cave (Historia Literaria), was born about the time of the Nicene Council, and died in 389, enumerates all the books now received except the Apocalypse. Epiphanius, who was chosen bishop of Constantia in A.D. 367 or 368, and composed his catalogue of ecclesiastical writers in 392, cites, in his Panarium, the different books of the New Testament in a manner which shows that he received all that are in the present canon. Of the Apocalypse he says that it was "generally or by most received;" and, speaking of the Alogians, who rejected all John's writings, he observes, "If they had rejected the Apocalypse only, it might have been supposed that they had acted from a nice critical judgment, as being circumspect in regard to an apocryphal or mysterious book; but to reject all John's writings was a sign of an anti-Christian spirit." Amphilochius also, bishop of Iconium, in Lycaonia, who was contemporary with Epiphanius, and is supposed to have died soon after the year 394, after citing the fourteen epistles of Paul, in his Iambics, adds, "But some say the Epistle to the Hebrews is spurious, not speaking correctly, for it is a genuine gift. Then the Catholic epistles, of which some receive seven, others only three, one of James, one of Peter, one of John; while others receive three of John, two of Peter, and Jude's. The Revelation of John is approved by some, while many say it is spurious." The eighty-fifth of the Apostolical Canons, a work falsely ascribed to Clement of Rome, but written at latest in the fourth century, enumerates fourteen epistles of Paul, one of Peter, three of John, one of James, one of Jude, two of Clement, and the (so-called) Apostolical Constitutions, among the canonical books of Scripture. This latter book, adds the pseudo- Clement, it is not fit to publish before all, "because of the mysteries contained in it." The first council that is supposed to have given a list of the canonical books is the much agitated council of Laodicea, supposed to have been held about the year 360 or 364 by thirty or forty bishops of Lydia and the neighboring parts; but the fifty-ninth article, which gives a catalogue of the canonical books, is not generally held to be genuine. Its genuineness, indeed, has been questioned by both Roman Catholic and Protestant historians. In his Introduction to the Old Testament Jahn refers to this canon as the work of "an anonymous framer." Among the canonical books included in the pretended fifty-ninth canon of this council are the seven Catholic epistles, viz., one of James, two of Peter, three of John, one of Jude; fourteen of Paul, in the following order, viz., Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and 2 Thessalonians, Hebrews, 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus, and Philemon. The Apocalypse is not named. Jerome and Augustine, whose opinions had great influence in settling the canon of Scripture, essentially agreed in regard to the books of the New Testament. St. Augustine was present in the year 393 at the council of Hippo, which drew up a catalogue of all the books of Scripture, agreeing in all points, so far as the New Testament was concerned, with the canon universally received, with the exception, perhaps, of the Hebrews, for the ancient doubt still appears through the wording of the acts of this council. They commence with enumerating only
thirteen epistles of Paul, and then add one, by the same author, to the Hebrews." They then mention two of Peter, three of John, one of James, and the Apocalypse, with a proviso that the churches beyond the sea be consulted with respect to this canon. And to the same effect the council of Carthage, held in the year 397, having adopted the same catalogue, the bishops assembled in council add, "But let this be known to our brother and fellow-priest (consacerdoti) Boniface [bishop of Rome], or to the other bishops of those parts, that we have received those [books] from the fathers to be read in the church." The same catalogue is repeated in the epistle of Innocent I, bishop of Rome, to St. Exupere, bishop of Toulouse, in the year 404, which, by those who acknowledge its genuineness, is looked upon as a confirmation of the decrees of Hippo and Carthage. It was still more formally confirmed in the Roman synod presided over by Pope Gelasius in 494, "if, indeed," to use the words of the learned Roman Catholic Jahn, "the acts of this synod are genuine" (see his Introduction). But, however this may be, the controversy had now nearly subsided, and the antilegomena were henceforward put on a par with the acknowledged books, and took their place beside them in all copies of the Scriptures. Indeed, subsequently to the eras of the councils of Hippo and Carthage, we hear but a solitary voice raised here and there against the genuineness of the antilegomena. Theodore; bishop of Mopsuestia, for instance, the celebrated Syrian commentator and preacher, who died about A.D. 428, is accused by Leo of Byzantium of having "abrogated and antiquated the Epistle of James, and afterward other Catholic epistles" (see Canisii Thesaurus, 1, 577). And Cosmas Indicopleustes, so called from the voyage which he made to India about the year 535 to 547, in his Christian Topography, has the following observations in reference to the authority of these books: "I forbear to allege arguments from the Catholic epistles, because from ancient times the Church has looked upon them as of doubtful authority. . . . Eusebius Pamphilus, in his Ecclesiastical History, says that at Ephesus there are two monuments, one of John the Evangelist, and another of John, an elder, who wrote two of the Catholic epistles, the second and third inscribed after this manner, 'The elder to the elect lady,' and 'The elder to the beloved Gaius,' and both he and Irenaeus say that but two are written by the apostles, the first of Peter, and the first of John . . . . Among the Syrians are found only the three before mentioned, viz., the Epistle of James, the Epistle of Peter, and the Epistle of John; they have not the rest. It does not become a perfect Christian to confirm any thing by doubtful books, when the books in the Testament acknowledged by all (homologoumena) have sufficiently declared all things to be known about the heavens, and the earth, and the elements, and all Christian doctrine." The most ancient Greek manuscripts which have come down to our times contain the Antilegomena. From this circumstance it is extremely probable that the copies from which they were transcribed were written after the controversies respecting their canonicity had subsided. The Alexandrian manuscript in the British Museum (now generally admitted to have been written in the fourth or early in the fifth century) contains all the books now commonly received, together with some others, with a table of contents, in which they are cited in the following order: "Seven Catholic epistles, fourteen of Paul, the Revelation of John, the First Epistle of Clement, the Second Epistle of Clement, and the Psalms of Solomon (which latter have, however, been lost from the MS.)." (It is observable that Eusebius classes the First Epistle of Clement among the Homologoumena, or universallyreceived books; but by this he probably meant no more than that it was acknowledged by all to be the genuine work of Clement.) The order of all the epistles is the same as in our modern Bibles, except that the Epistle to the Hebrews is placed afterthe Second Epistle to the Thessalonians. In the Vatican manuscript B, which, in respect of antiquity, disputes the precedence with the Alexandrian, the Apocalypse is wanting, but it contains the remaining antilegomena. (The omission of this last book may be owing simply to the loss of the last part of the codex, in consequence of which the concluding chapters of the Hebrews, and the whole of 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus, and Philemon are likewise missing.) The Syrian canon of the New Testament did not include all the antilegomena. All the manuscripts of the Syrian version (the Peshito, a work of the second century) which have come down to us omit the Second Epistle of Peter, the Second and Third of John, that of Jude, and the Apocalypse. Nor are these books received to this day either by the Jacobite. or Nestorian Christians. These are all wanting in the Vatican and Medicean copies, written in the years 548 and 586, and in the beautiful manuscript of the Peshito, preserved in the British Museum, and the writing of which was concluded at the monastery of Bethkoki, A.D. 768, on 197 leaves of vellum, in the Estrangelo character.
In the inquiring age immediately preceding the Reformation the controversy respecting the antilegomena was revived, especially by Erasmus and Cardinal Cajetan; by the latter, however, upon principles so questionable as to expose him to the charge of assailing the authority of the Epistle to the Hebrews with the same weapons which the Emperor Julian had employed to impugn the authority of Matthew's Gospel. The doubts thus raised were in a great measure silenced by the decree of the council of Trent, although there have not been wanting learned Roman Catholic divines since this period who have ventured to question at least the Pauline authorship of the Epistle to the Hebrews. It is well known that Luther, influenced in this instance not so much by historicocritical asby dogmatical views, called the Epistle of James "an epistle of straw" (epistola straminea). He also wished the antilegomena to be distinguished from the other books in his translation of the Bible. In consequence of this, the Epistle to the Hebrews, the Epistles of James and Jude, and the Apocalypse have no numbers attached to them in the German copies of the Bible up to the middle of the seventeenth century; and it is observed by Tholuck (Commentary on Hebrews, in Biblical Cabinet) that "the same plan should have been adopted with respect to second Peter and second and third John, but it did not seem proper to detach them from the Homologoumena which belonged to them. Thus he wished at the same time to point out what were the "right noble chief books of Scripture." We are informed by Father Paul Sarpi ([Hist. of the Council of Trent, bk. 2, ch. 43, t. 1, p. 235; and ch. 476, p. 240) that one of the charges collected from the writings of Luther in this council was "that no books should be admitted into the canon of the Old Testament which were not in the canon of the Jews, and that from the New should be excluded the Epistle to the Hebrews, the Epistle of James, the Second Epistle of Peter, the Second and Third of John, and the Apocalypse." Tholuck states that the "Evangelical Churches, both Lutheran and Reformed, adopted the same canon with respect to the New Testament as that of the council of Trent" (Comment. on Heb. vol. 1, Introd., ch. 1, § 3, note b). Some, or all, of the antilegomena have been again impugned in recent times, especially in Germany. See each in its place. SEE CANON ((of Scripture).