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New Book on Eusebius’ Canon Tables

June 7, 2019

Matthew Crawford informs me that his book on the Eusebian canon tables and their significance has just appeared:  The Eusebian Canon Tables:  Ordering Textual Knowledge in Late Antiquity (Oxford University Press, 2019), the publisher’s description here.

Eusebius (d. ca. 340 AD) was the author of several major works, the most widely used and known being his Ecclesiastical History, which charts Christianity from its beginnings to his own time.  He appears to have thought that Constantine’s legalization of Christianity was practically the arrival of the kingdom of God (a bit of a misjudgement there!).  But he preserves for us large quotations of texts otherwise lost.

In the study of the Gospels, his great contribution was devising what are called his “canon tables.”   Essentially, he went through the texts of the four Gospels, identifying material that he regarded as paralleled in all four, any three or two, and material unique to each.  Then, he created lists, “tables” of such material, each list/table given a Latin number, and the units of text within each table given a number.  Users of the Nestle-Aland Greek NT will note these canon and section numbers in the margins of the Gospels, and the tables themselves are given in the introductory material.

It was a big task, and it facilitated the comparative study of the Gospels greatly.  Unlike the Gospels synopses or harmonies, which involved the necessity of using such a tool in place of the texts of the Gospels, Eusebius’ tables allowed for detailed comparison without rearranging the texts.

Chapter two of Crawford’s book is a revised and enlarged version of his article referred to in my previous post yesterday (here).

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