The Muratorian fragment
is the oldest known list of New Testament
books that were accepted by the churches known to the anonymous author of the fragment, thus an early list of which were accepted as canonical
. It was discovered in the Ambrosian Library in Milan
by father Ludovico Antonio Muratori
, (1672 – 1750), the most famous Italian historian of his generation, and published in 1740
. The fragment is a 7th century Latin manuscript
that scholars detect was a translation from a Greek
original, of about 170 CE.
More recently, some scholars have contended for a 4th century date for the original of the fragment, emphasizing especially comparisons with eastern fourth century canon lists. Conversely, the concordance may simply attest to an early establishment and conservative retention for a New Testament canon in the Greek-speaking east.
The Muratorian fragment is lacking its beginning and its end. The text of the list itself is dated to about 170 CE because its author refers to Pius I, bishop of Rome (142 - 157), as recent:
- ' But Hermas wrote The Shepherd very recently, in our times, in the city of Rome, while bishop Pius, his brother, was occupying the chair of the church of the city of Rome. And therefore it ought indeed to be read; but it cannot be read publicly to the people in church either among the Prophets, whose number is complete, or among the Apostles, for it is after their time."
The unidentified author mentions only two epistles of John, without describing them. The Apocalypse of Peter is mentioned as a book which "some of us will not allow to be read in church."
The author accepts, "moreover, the Epistle of Jude and two bearing the name of John are counted in the catholic Church; and the Book of Wisdom, written by the friends of Solomon in his honour."