Sunday, February 26, 2017

John Adams on Who First Compiled the Canon and When

In his marginalia on Memoirs of the Life and Writings of Arthur Ashley Sykes, D.D., John Adams answers the question of who and when the Christian "canon" was first compiled. As he wrote:
What is meant by "received in Churches?"
The Gospel of St. Thomas and the Acts of Paul and Thekla were received, and so was the Prophecy of Enoch. The truth is that nothing was canonical till the Council of Nicaea. Then and not till then was settled the Norma of Canonicality. And by whom?
By whom? Yes, a classic rhetorical question. The Church who decided the Council of Nicaea. And such was, according to Adams, the Athanasian/Roman Catholic Church that Adams thought had already been corrupted.

Again, as he wrote in this same note:
When Homsousianity [sic] was established and Christianity totally corrupted, no doubt, authorities enough might be accumulated. 


Tim Polack said...

Yes, because Adams was such a brilliant religious historian and theologian. He can't even get right when the canon was established. At least he got the century right...

What is cool is that he was paying attention to such matters. But they're really not much worthy of reprint since he just did not know this stuff very well...and his view of the Catholic Church was as tainted as most colonists living in the New World.

Tom Van Dyke said...

I admit I too continue to question the importance of what a drunken ex-president wrote privately about 15 years after he left the public eye. You can make a marginal case for a Jimmy Carter, since his writings and actions are still quite public, but even Carter is now consigned to footnotes of history, not the main text.

I've often compared the emphasis on Adams' and Jefferson's post-presidential correspondence as a function of simply there being so much of it available. But that's like looking for your keys not where you dropped them, but over where the light's better.