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Now in the first volume of his Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew, [Origen] defends the canon of the church, testify­ ing that he recognizes only four Gospels. This is what he says: Among the four Gospels—the only ones not disputed by the church of God under heaven—I have learned from the tradition that the first written was that according to Matthew, the former tax collector and then apostle of Jesus Christ, who delivered it to believers coming out of Judaism, drawing it up in Hebrew letters. Second was that according to Mark, who recorded it as he was instructed by Peter, who acknowl­ edges him as his son in the Catholic epistle he wrote, where he says, “The church in Babylon, chosen with you, sends you greetings, as does my son Mark,” [1 Pet. 5:13]. The third was that according to Luke, the Gospel praised by Paul and made for those among the Gen­ tile Christians. And after all these was that according to John. And in the fifth volume of his Expositions on the Gospel of John, the same author [Origen] said these things concerning the apostolic epistles: Paul was made worthy to be a minister of the new covenant, a cov­ enant based not on the letter but the Spirit [2 Cor. 3:6]; and he spread the gospel from Jerusalem and its vicin­ ity, as far as Illyricum [Rom 15:19]. He did not write to all the churches he had taught; but to those he did write, he sent letters of just a few lines. But Peter, on whom the church of Christ was built and against which the gates of hell will not pre­ vail [Matt. 16:18], left behind one letter that is acknowledged, and pos­ sibly a second, for it is disputed. And


why do we need to speak of the one who reclined on Jesus’ breast, John, who left behind one Gospel, while admitting that he could produce so many that the world would not be able to contain them [John 21:25]? He also wrote the Apocalypse, after being ordered to be silent and not to write what was spoken by the voices of the seven thunders [Rev. 10:3–4]. He also left behind an epistle of a very few lines, and possibly a sec­ ond and third. For not everyone agrees that these are genuine. But taken together, both do not contain a hundred lines. In addition to these, he says the following about the letter to the Hebrews in his Homilies on it: The writing style of the epistle entitled “To the Hebrews” does not have the unskilled character of the apostle, who admitted that he was an unskilled writer [2 Cor. 11:6], at least with regard to style. The epistle is better Greek in its composition, as everyone able to evaluate differ­ ences in style will admit. At the same time, everyone who attends closely to the reading of the apos­ tolic text will agree that the thoughts of the epistle are marvelous and in no way inferior to the acknowledged writings of the apostle. After a few other matters he adds the following: But I would say that the thoughts of the epistle appear to be those of the apostle, whereas the style and composition of the letter are those of someone who had his writings in mind, and wrote down the words of his teacher at his leisure. And so any church that considers the epistle to be Paul’s should be approved for their view; for the ancients had good

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