Cyril of Jerusalem on the Canon

Cyril of Jerusalem was a bishop of Jerusalem. The omission of Revelation from his list is due to a general reaction against this book in the east after excessive use was made of it by the Montanist cults.

From his Catechetical Lectures, iv. 33-37, about A.D. 350.

The Greek text here is according to Migne. The English translation and notes are by Edward H. Gifford, from the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers series edited by Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, second series, vol. 7 (1894), pp. 26-8.

33. Ταυτα δε διδασκουσιν ημας οι θεοπνευστοι γραφαι της παλαιας τε και καινης διαθηκης. Εις γαρ εστιν ο των δυο διαθηκων Θεος, ο τον εν τη καινη φανεντα Χριστον εν τη παλαια προκαταγγειλας· ο δια νομου και προφητων εις Χριστον παιδαγωγησας. Προ γαρ του ελθειν την πιστιν, υπο νομον εφρουρουμεθα· και ο νομος παιδαγωγος ημων γεγονεν εις Χριστον. Καν ποτε των αιρετικων ακουσης τινος βλασφημουντος νομον η προφητας, αντιφθεγξαι την σωτηριον φωνην, λεγων· Ουκ ηλθεν Ιησους καταλυσαι τον νομον, αλλα πληρωσαι. Και φιλομαθως επιγνωθι, και παρα της Εκκλησιας, ποιαι μεν εισιν αι της παλαιας διαθηκης βιβλοι, ποιαι δε της καινης. Και μοι μηδεν των αποκρυφων αναγινωσκε. Ο γαρ τα παρα πασιν ομολογουμενα μη ειδως, τι περι τα αμφιβαλλομενα ταλαιπωρεις ματην; Αναγινωσκε τας θειας γραφας, τας εικοσι δυο βιβλους της παλαιας διαθηκης ταυτας, τας υπο των εβδομηκοντα δυο Ερμηνευτων ερμηνευθεισας. 33. Now these the divinely-inspired Scriptures of both the Old and the New Testament teach us. For the God of the two Testaments is One, Who in the Old Testament foretold the Christ Who appeared in the New; Who by the Law and the Prophets led us to Christ's school. For before faith came, we were kept in ward under the law, and, the law hath been our tutor to bring us unto Christ. 1 And if ever thou hear any of the heretics speaking evil of the Law or the Prophets, answer in the sound of the Saviour's voice, saying, Jesus came not to destroy the Law, but to fulfil it. 2 Learn also diligently, and from the Church, what are the books of the Old Testament, and what those of the New. And, pray, read none of the apocryphal writings: 3 for why dost thou, who knowest not those which are acknowledged among all, trouble thyself in vain about those which are disputed? Read the Divine Scriptures, the twenty-two books of the Old Testament, these that have been translated by the Seventy-two Interpreters. 4
34. Αλεξανδρου γαρ του Μακεδονων βασιλεως τελευτησαντος και της βασιλειας εις τεσσαρας διαιρεθεισης αρχας, εις τε την Βαβυλωνιαν και την Μακεδονιαν, Ασιαν τε και την Αιγυπτον· εις των της Αιγυπτου βασιλευοντων, Πτολεμαιος ο Φιλαδελφος, φιλολογωτατος γενομενος βασιλευς και τας κατα πανταχου βιβλους συναθροιζων, παρα Δημητριου του Φαληρεως, του της βιβλιοθηκης προνοητου, περι των νομικων και προφητικων θειων γραφων επακουσας· και πολυ καλλιον κρινας, ου παρα ακοντων αναγκαστως τα βιβλια κτησασθαι, αλλ' εξιλεωσασθαι δωροις μαλλον και φιλια τους εχοντας· και γινωσκων, οτι το μεν αναγκαστον δολουται πολλακις, απροαιρετως διδομενον· το δε εκ προαιρεσεως παρεχομενον συν αληθεια τη παση δωρειται· Ελεαζαρω τω τοτε αρχιερει πλειστα δωρα πεμψας εις τον ενταυθα των Ιεροσολυμων ναον, εξ κατα φυλην των δωδεκα του Ισραηλ φυλων, προς εαυτον εις ερμηνειαν εποιησεν αποστειλαι. Ειτα και του, θειας η μη τας βιβλους ειναι λαμβανων αποπειραν, και προς το μη συνδυασαι προς αλληλους τους αποσταλεντας υποπτευσας· εν τη λεγομενη Φαρω, τη προς Αλεξανδρειαν κειμενη, των παραγενομενων ερμηνευτων εκαστω ιδιον οικον απονειμας, εκαστω πασας τας γραφας επετρεψεν ερμηνευσαι. Τουτων δε εν εβδομηκοντα [και] δυο ημεραις το πραγμα πληρωσαντων, τας ομου παντων ερμηνειας, ας κατα διαφορους οικους αλληλοις μη προσιεντες εποιησαντο, συναγαγων επι το αυτο, ου μονον εν νοημασιν, αλλα και εν λεξεσιν ευρεν συμ φωνους. Ου γαρ ευρεσιλογια και κατασκευη σοφισματων ανθρωπινων ην το γινομενον· αλλ' εκ Πνευματος αγιου η των αγιω Πνευματι λαληθεισων θειων γραφων ερμηνεια συνετελειτο. 34. For after the death of Alexander, the king of the Macedonians, and the division of his kingdom into four principalities, into Babylonia, and Macedonia, and Asia, and Egypt, one of those who reigned over Egypt, Ptolemy Philadelphus, being a king very fond of learning, while collecting the books that were in every place, heard from Demetrius Phalereus, the curator of his library, of the Divine Scriptures of the Law and the Prophets, and judged it much nobler, not to get the books from the possessors by force against their will, but rather to propitiate them by gifts and friendship; and knowing that what is extorted is often adulterated, being given unwillingly, while that which is willingly supplied is freely given with all sincerity, he sent to Eleazar, who was then High Priest, a great many gifts for the Temple here at Jerusalem, and caused him to send him six interpreters from each of the twelve tribes of Israel for the translation. 5 Then, further, to make experiment whether the books were Divine or not, he took precaution that those who had been sent should not combine among themselves, by assigning to each of the interpreters who had come his separate chamber in the island called Pharos, which lies over against Alexandria, and committed to each the whole Scriptures to translate. And when they had fulfilled the task in seventy-two days, he brought together all their translations, which they had made in different chambers without sending them one to another, and found that they agreed not only in the sense but even in words. For the process was no word-craft, nor contrivance of human devices: but the translation of the Divine Scriptures, spoken by the Holy Ghost, was of the Holy Ghost accomplished.
35. Τουτων τας εικοσι δυο βιβλους αναγινωσκε· προς δε τα αποκρυφα μηδεν εχε κοινον. Ταυτας μονας μελετα σπουδαιως, ας και εν Εκκλησια μετα παρρησιας αναγινωσκομεν. Πολυ σου φρονιμωτεροι και ευλαβεστεροι ησαν οι αποστολοι και οι αρχαιοι επισκοποι, οι της Εκκλησιας προσταται, οι ταυτας παραδοντες. Συ ουν, τεκνον της Εκκλησιας ων, μη παραχαραττε τους θεσμους. Και της μεν παλαιας διαθηκης, καθως ειρηται, τας εικοσι δυο μελετα βιβλους· ας, ει φιλομαθης τυγχανεις, εμου λεγοντος, ονομαστι μεμνησθαι σπουδασον. Του νομου μεν γαρ εισιν αι Μωσεως πρωται πεντε βιβλοι, Γενεσις, Εξοδος, Λευιτικον, Αριθμοι, Δευτερονομιον· εξης δε, η Ιησου υιου Ναυη· και το των Κριτων βιβλιον μετα της Ρουθ, εβδομον αριθμουμενον. Των δε λοιπων ιστορικων βιβλιων, η πρωτη και η δευτερα των Βασιλειων μια παρ' Εβραιοις εστι βιβλος· μια δε και η τριτη και η τεταρτη. Ομοιως δε παρ' αυτοις και των Παραλειπομενων η πρωτη και η δευτερα μια τυγχανει βιβλος· και του Εσδρα η πρωτη και η δευτερα μια λελογισται· δωδεκατη δε βιβλος η Εσθηρ. Και τα μεν ιστορικα ταυτα. Τα δε στιχηρα τυγχανει πεντε· Ιωβ, και βιβλος Ψαλμων, και Παροιμιαι, και Εκκλησιαστης, και Αισμα ασματων επτακαιδεκατον βιβλιον. Επι δε τουτοις τα προφητικα πεντε· των δωδεκα προφητων μια βιβλος, και Ησαιου μια, και Ιερεμιου μετα Βαρουχ, και Θρηνων, και Επιστολης· ειτα Ιεζεκιηλ, και η του Δανιηλ, εικοστηδευτερα βιβλος της παλαιας διαθηκης. 35. Of these read the two and twenty books, but have nothing to do with the apocryphal writings. Study earnestly these only which we read openly in the Church. Far wiser and more pious than thyself were the Apostles, and the bishops of old time, the presidents of the Church who handed down these books. Being therefore a child of the Church, trench 6 thou not upon its statutes. And of the Old Testament, as we have said, study the two and twenty books, which, if thou art desirous of learning, strive to remember by name, as I recite them. For of the Law the books of Moses are the first five, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy. And next, Joshua the son of Nave, 7 and the book of Judges, including Ruth, counted as seventh. And of the other historical books, the first and second books of the Kings 8 are among the Hebrews one book; also the third and fourth 8b one book. And in like manner, the first and second of Chronicles are with them one book; and the first and second of Esdras 8c are counted one. Esther is the twelfth book; and these are the Historical writings. But those which are written in verses are five, Job, and the book of Psalms, and Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Songs, which is the seventeenth book. And after these come the five Prophetic books: of the Twelve Prophets one book, of Isaiah one, of Jeremiah one, including Baruch and Lamentations and the Epistle; 9 then Ezekiel, and the Book of Daniel, the twenty-second of the Old Testament.
36. Της δε καινης διαθηκης, τα τεσσαρα μονα ευαγγελια· τα δε λοιπα ψευδεπιγραφα και βλαβερα τυγχανει. Εγρα ψαν και Μανιχαιοι κατα Θωμαν ευαγγελιον, οπερ ευωδια της ευαγγελικης επωνυμιας επικεχρωσμενον, διαφθειρει τας ψυχας των απλουστερων. Δεχου δε και τας Πραξεις των δωδεκα αποστολων. Προς τουτοις δε και τας επτα, Ιακωβου, και Πετρου, και Ιωαννου, και Ιουδα καθολικας επιστολας· επισφραγισμα δε των παντων, και μαθητων το τελευταιον, τας Παυλου δεκατεσσαρας επιστολας. Τα δε λοιπα παντα, εν δευτερω κεισθω. Και οσα [μεν] εν εκκλησιαις μη αναγινωσκεται, ταυτα μηδε κατα σαυτον αναγινωσκε, καθως ηκουσας. Και τα μεν περι τουτων, ταυτα. 36. Then of the New Testament there are the four Gospels only, for the rest have false titles 10 and are mischievous. The Manichaeans also wrote a Gospel according to Thomas, which being tinctured with the fragrance of the evangelic title corrupts the souls of the simple sort. Receive also the Acts of the Twelve Apostles; and in addition to these the seven Catholic Epistles of James, Peter, John, and Jude; and as a seal upon them all, and the last work of the disciples, the fourteen Epistles of Paul . 11 But let all the rest be put aside in a secondary rank. And whatever books are not read in Churches, these read not even by thyself, as thou hast heard me say. Thus much of these subjects.
37. Φευγε δε πασαν διαβολικην ενεργειαν, και μη πειθου τω δρακοντι τω αποστατη, ος εξ αγαθης υποστασεως αυτοπροαιρετον εσχε την μεταβολην· ος αναπεισαι μεν δυναται τους θελοντας, αναγκασαι δε ουδενα. Και μητε αστρολογιαις, μητε ορνεοσκοπιαις, μητε κληδοσι προσεχε, μηδε ταις μυθωδεσι των Ελληνων μαντειαις. Φαρμακιαν, και επαοιδιαν, και τα νεκυομαντειων παρανομωτατα πραγματα, μηδε μεχρις ακοης παραδεχου. Αποστηθι παντος ακολασιας ειδους, μητε γαστριμαργων, μητε φιληδονων, υπερανω τε φιλαργυριας απασης και του τοκιζειν γενομενος. Μητε δε θεωριων εθνικοις αθροισμασι παραβαλλε· μητε επιδεσμασιν εν νοσοις χρηση ποτε. Αποστρεφου δε πασαν και του καπηλοδυτειν χυδαιοτητα. Και μητε εις Σαμαρειτισμον η Ιουδαισμον εκπεσης· ελυτρωσατο γαρ σε λοιπον Ιησους ο Χριστος. Πασης σαββατων παρατηρησεως αποστηθι· και του, κοινον η ακαθαρτον λεγειν τι ειναι των αδιαφορων βρωματων. Εξαιρετως δε μισει παντα τα συνεδρια των παρανομων αιρετικων. Και παντοιως την σεαυτου ψυχην ασφαλιζου, νηστειαις, προσευχαις, ελεημοσυναις, και θειων λογιων αναγνωσμασιν, ινα μετα σωφροσυνης και δογματων ευσεβων, τον επιλοιπον εν σαρκι βιωσας χρονον, της μιας του λουτρου σωτηριας απολαυσης· στρατολογηθεις δε ουτως εν ουρανιαις στρατιαις τω Πατρι και Θεω, και των ουρανιων καταξιωθης στεφανων· εν Χριστω Ιησου τω Κυριω ημων, ω η δοξα εις τους αιωνας των αιωνων. Αμην. 37. But shun thou every diabolical operation, and believe not the apostate Serpent, whose transformation from a good nature was of his own free choice: who can over-persuade the willing, but can compel no one. Also give heed neither to observations of the stars nor auguries, nor omens, nor to the fabulous divinations of the Greeks. 12 Witchcraft, and enchantment, and the wicked practices of necromancy, admit not even to a hearing. From every kind of intemperance stand aloof, giving thyself neither to gluttony nor licentiousness, rising superior to all covetousness and usury. Neither venture thyself at heathen assemblies for public spectacles, nor ever use amulets in sicknesses; shun also all the vulgarity of tavern-haunting. Fall not away either into the sect of the Samaritans, or into Judaism: for Jesus Christ henceforth hath ransomed thee. Stand aloof from all observance of Sabbaths, 13 and from calling any indifferent meats common or unclean. But especially abhor all the assemblies of wicked heretics; and in every way make thine own soul safe, by fastings, prayers, almsgivings, and reading the oracles of God; that having lived the rest of thy life in the flesh in soberness and godly doctrine, thou mayest enjoy the one salvation which flows from Baptism; and thus enrolled in the armies of heaven by God and the Father, mayest also be deemed worthy of the heavenly crowns, in Christ Jesus our Lord, to Whom be the glory for ever and ever. Amen.


1. Gal. iii. 24. The Παιδαγωγος is described by Clement of Alexandria (Paedag. i. 7) as one who both conducts a boy to school, and helps to teach him,—an usher: “under-master” (Wicliff).

2. Matt. v. 17.

3. των αποκρυφων. The sense in which Cyril uses this term may be learned from Rufinus (Expositio Symboli, § 38), who distinguishes three classes of books: (1) The Canonical Books of the Old and New Testaments, which alone are to be used in proof of doctrine; (2) Ecclesiastical, which may be read in Churches, including Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, Tobit, Judith, and the Books of the Maccabees, in the Old Testament, and The Shepherd of Hermas, and The Two Ways in the New Testament; (3) The other writings they called “Apocryphal,” which they would not have read in Churches. The distinction is useful, though the second class is not complete.

4. The original source of this account of the Septuagint version is a letter purporting to have been written by Aristeas, or Aristæus, a confidential minister of Ptolemy Philadelphus, to his brother Philocrates. Though the letter is not regarded as genuine its statements are in part admitted to be true, being confirmed by a fragment, preserved by Eusebius (Præparatio Evangelica, ix. 6.), of a work of Aristobulus, a Jewish philosopher who wrote in the reign of Ptolemy Philometor, 181-146, B.C. Upon these testimonies it is generally admitted that “the whole Law,” i.e. the Pentateuch was translated into Greek at Alexandria in the reign either of Ptolemy Soter (323-285, B.C.), or of his son Ptolemy Philadelphus (285-247, B.C.), under the direction of Demetrius Phalereus, curator of the King’s library.

5. Up to this point Cyril’s account is based upon the statements of the Pseudo-Aristeas. The fabulous incidents which follow, concerning the separate cells, the completion of the whole version by each translator, the miraculous agreement in the very words, proving a Divine inspiration, are found in Philo Judæus, Life of Moses, II. 7. Josephus, Antiquities, XII. c. ii. 3-14, following the letter of Aristeas, gives long descriptions of the magnificent presents sent by Philadelphus to Jerusalem, and of his splendid hospitality to the translators, but makes no allusion to the separate cells or miraculous agreement. On the contrary he represents the 72 interpreters as meeting together for consultation, agreeing on the text to be adopted, and completing their joint labours in 72 days. The slightest comparison of the Version with the original Hebrew must convince any reasonable person that the idea of divine inspiration or supernatural assistance, borrowed by Justin Martyr, Irenæus, and other Fathers, apparently from Philo, is a mere invention of the imagination, disproved by the facts. Compare the article “Septuagint” in Murray’s Dictionary of the Bible.

6. The rendering “trench not” (R.W.C.) agrees well with the etymology of the verb (παραχαρασσω). Its more usual signification seems to be “counterfeit,” “forge.” The sense required here, apart from any metaphor, is “transgress” (Heurtley).

7. The name “Nun” is represented by “Nave” in the Septuagint, which Cyril used.

8. The two books of Samuel.

8b. i.e. First and Second Kings.

8c. Ezra and Nehemiah.

9. The Epistle of Jeremy, which now appears in the Apocrypha as the last chapter of Baruch. On the number and arrangement of the Books of the Old and New Testaments the student should consult an interesting Essay by Professor Sanday (Studia Biblica, vol. iii.), who traces the introduction of a fixed order to the time when papyrus rolls were superseded by codices, in which the sheets of skin were folded and bound together, as in printed books. This change had commenced before the Diocletian persecution, A.D. 303, when among the sacred books taken from the Christians codices were much more numerous than rolls. On the contents of the Jewish Canon, see Dictionary of the Bible, “Canon.” B.F.W. “Josephus enumerates 20 books ‘which are justly believed to be divine.’” One of the earliest attempts by a Christian to ascertain correctly the number and order of the Books of the O.T. was made by Melito, Bishop of Sardis, who travelled for this purpose to Palestine, in the latter part of the 2nd Century. His list is as follows:—“Of Moses five (books); Genesis, Exodus, Numbers, Leviticus, Deuteronomy, Jesus son of Nave, Judges, Ruth, four Books of Kings, two of Chronicles, Psalms of David, Solomon’s Proverbs, which is also called Wisdom, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, Job, Prophets, Isaiah, Jeremiah, the Twelve in one Book, Daniel, Ezekiel, Esdras.” (Eusebius, H.E. III. cap. 10, note I, in this series.) Cyril’s List agrees with that of Athanasius (Festal Epistle, 373 A.D.), except that Job is placed by Ath. after Canticles instead of before Psalms.

10. Gr. ψευδεπιγραφα. For an account of the many Apocryphal Gospels, see the article by Lipsius in the “Dictionary of Christian Biography,” Smith and Wace, and the English translations in Clark’s Ante-Nicene Library.

11. Cyril includes in this list all the books which we receive, except the Apocalypse. See Bishop Westcott’s Article “Canon,” in the Dictionary of the Bible, and Origen’s Catalogue in Euseb. Hist. vi. 25 (Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, vol. i.).

12. Compare xix. 8. where all such acts of divination are said to be service of the devil.

13. Compare Gal. iv. 10, “Ye observe days.”