The Muratorian fragment and the development of the Canon
The traditional consensus that the New Testament Canon was formed by the end of the second century has been weakened by the results of modern studies. The traditional viewpoint now depends primarily upon the evidence of the Muratorian Fragment. Albert C. Sundberg, Jr., in his argument for a revision of the history of the Christian Canon, has called for the redating of the Muratorian Fragment. Through a careful analysis of the Fragment's traditional dating, and of its place within the history of the Canon, this study will confirm Sundberg's theory. The second century date of the Fragment is ultimately dependent upon the simple Latin phrase, nuperrime temporibus nostris, within a series of references to The Shepherd of Hermas. Sundberg has attempted to broaden the common interpretation of this phrase, but the commonly held interpretation is dubious in itself because of the known poor transcription and the suspected careless translation of the Fragment, and because the other references to The Shepherd are erroneous and late. No other references within the Fragment support a conclusive second century date. Within the history of the Christian Canon, the Fragment, if traditionally dated, is a serious anomaly in terms of concept, form, and contents. There is nothing to distinguish the Fragment from the fifteen undisputed Catalogues which appear in the fourth and early fifth century, and nothing to suggest that the Fragment is earlier. Indeed, there are numerous elements within the Fragment that are unparalleled in the West or are exceptional until later. The cumulative evidence is too siqnificant to be dismissed because of one, most likely incorrect, association of Hermas with Pius of Rome. The Muratorian Fragment redated as a fourth century Eastern document, possibly originating from Palestine or western Syria around 375, is a more reasonable conclusion of the evidence available.