The New Testament CanonHaving introduced ourselves to the earliest extant manuscripts of the New Testament, the time has now come for us to ask the same question as we did on the Old Testament: how did the books in the New Testament came to be regarded as canonical? What about books that were excluded? What were their reasons for exclusion?
The first generations of the Church fathers such as Ignatius (35-107), Papias (60-130) and Justin (100-165) were more concerned with the canon of the Old Testament than that of the New. One reason is, of course, that they could appeal to the living oral tradition that surrounded them.  Another reason is that some of the New Testament books were not yet written during their lifetimes!
In fact the impetus towards providing a definitive list of canonical books for the New Testament came from a heretic [a] named Marcion (d.160). He was a native of Sinope in Asia Minor who made his way to Rome in AD140 and began preaching what he believed to be the original good news. Expelled from the church of Rome around 144, he taught that many of the early Christian literature were corrupted by Jewish ideas. Marcion accepted only the letters of Paul (Galatians, I & II Corinthians, Romans, I & II Thessalonians, Laodiceans [?], Colossians, Philemon and Philippians) and a "purified" version of Luke's gospel. Marcion's teaching was immensely popular and he became an immediate concern for his rivals. 
Irenaeus (c.130-c.200), Bishop of Hippo, argued against Marcion's inclusion of only one gospel with a curious piece of logic: "As there are four winds," he argued, "there should therefore be four gospels." Satisfied with this logically ruthless demolition of Marcion, Irenaeus drew up a list of writings he considered canonical. His list consist of 22 books of which 21 are present in today's New Testament. But noteworthy are the books he left out: Philemon, II Peter, II & III John, Hebrews and Jude.  Interestingly, his list included a book no longer present in the New Testament: The Shepherd of Hermas.  [b] Thus the first formal list of canonical books drawn up in the second half of the second century (around AD180) does not completely tally with the modern canon.
The next list came from the so-called Muratorian Fragment, discovered in Milan by L.A. Muratori who published it in 1740. The fragment is dated to around AD200. The fragment presents a list of what its author considered to be inspired or canonical books. The list rejects The Shepherd of Hermas, saying that it was a recent book. One of the books it did add to the canonical list does not inspire confidence in the believer. It is a book very few Christians know of today and is called The Apocalypse of Peter.  [c] Again we find some books in todays canon missing from the Muratorian Fragment: I & II Peter, Hebrews, James and III John. The exclusion of the epistles of Peter is remarkable for a Roman document (if Peter did indeed die in Rome and indeed wrote the epistle attributed to him). The exclusion of the epistles of Hebrew and James, both of which are known in Rome at least a century before the list is curious. 
The next canonical list came from Origen (c185-254) who in AD230 defined what he believed to be the canon of scripture for the New Testament. He included the four gospels, Acts, Paul's thirteen epistles, I Peter, I John and Revelation. He also mentioned that the following books were under dispute: Hebrews, II Peter, II & III John, James, Jude, the Epistle of Barnabas [d], The Shepherd of Hermas, The Didache [e] and the Gospel According to the Hebrews. [f] The last four books are no longer in the canon today. 
We have now reached the period of the uncial script. In the extent manuscripts that we have, the disagreements as to which books should be included in the New Testament and which should be excluded are evident here as well. We find in Codex Sinaiticus the inclusion of Shepherd of Hermas and the Epistle of Barnabas. Both works were placed in the codex that in no way showed that the compiler wanted them to be separated from the rest.  The Codex Alexandrinus contains the two Epistles of Clement, written by Clement, Bishop of Rome, to the Corinthian Church around AD95. [9}
We can conclude then,
Then a process that can be called religious forgery began to take place. Books which somehow manage to attach themselves to the names of apostles (the tradition of apostolic authorship rears its ugly head again!) were eventually thought to be inspired based on that "fact": Hebrew was attributed to Paul; Revelation and the II & III John to John the apostle, the epistles of James and Jude to the brothers of Jesus; and the epistles of Peter to Simon Peter himself.  We know today, based on critical documentary research, that these attributions are false. Most of the books that were left out never had the luck to strongly attach themselves to the names of apostles and were thus left out. So the inclusion of some of the books in the New Testament was based on the fraudulent belief in apostolic authorships. In should be mentioned here that in no way were the books that finally became canonical invariably written earlier than the non-canonical ones. Thus the non-canonical Didache, I Clement and the Epistle of Barnabas all date to the second half of the first century, while the canonical II Peter and Jude dates to the middle of the second century.
In fact the first list of all the 27 books of the New Testament to the exclusion of all others appeared in the Festal Letter written by Athanasius (c296-373), Bishop of Alexandria to the Egyptian Churches in AD367. In the letter Athanasius told his bishops that these twenty seven books are to be regarded as canonical.  Athanasius' list was confirmed by a council under Pope Damasus in AD382. However many churches in the east continue to disagree with the Athanasian canon. The Book of Revelation, for instance, was not considered divinely inspired until well into the eighth century. We find in Codex Claromontanus, a sixth century manuscript, that the Hebrews was omitted from it while the Epistle of Barnabas was included and placed between the epistle of Jude and the book of Revelation. 
Even today we find some Christian churches, with very old roots, have different books in the New Testament. The East-Syrian Nestorian Church has a canon with only 22 books. The canon excludes II Peter, II & III John, Jude and Revelation from their New Testament. The Ethiopian Church have thirty eight books in their New testament and includes in their list of canonical books the Shepherd of Hermas, I & II Clement and the Apostolic Constitutions.  [h]
What can we conclude about the NT canon? We find that:
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