Muratorian Fragment

James R. Adair, Jr.

This brief article is an expanded version of the article which appeared in the Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible.

The Muratorian Fragment is a portion of an early Christian document which contains a discussion of those books, now known as the New Testament, which were accepted by the churches known to the anonymous author of the fragment. The fragment is written in vulgar Latin, probably of the eighth century, but it is almost certainly a translation of a much earlier Greek document.

The fragment begins with what is probably a mutilated reference to Mark, and Luke and John are then mentioned as the third and fourth gospels, respectively. It is probable that Matthew was mentioned in a missing portion of the original. Thirteen letters are attributed to Paul and are enumerated in the following order: Corinthians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Galatians, Thessalonians, Romans, Philemon, Titus, and Timothy (the two letters to the Corinthians, Thessalonians, and Timothy are acknowledged). The letters to the Laodiceans and Alexandrians are specifically excluded as forgeries, and the existence of other unpalatable works is mentioned. Finally, Jude and two letters of John are mentioned approvingly, as are the Wisdom of Solomon and the apocalypses of John and Peter (although the latter is said to be rejected by some).

The date of the original Greek composition lying behind the present Latin text has generally been agreed to lie in the middle or end of the second century because of the statement in the fragment that "Hermas wrote the Shepherd very recently in our times in the city of Rome, when Bishop Pius, his brother, was sitting in the chair of the Church of Rome." More recently, Sundberg and Hahneman have contended for a fourth century date for the original of the fragment, emphasizing especially comparisons with eastern fourth century canon lists. Although their arguments have been persuasive to some, many scholars remain skeptical of their late dating. All would probably agree, however, that their work has stimulated fresh consideration of the development of the New Testament canon, to which the Muratorian Fragment is an important witness.


Hahneman, Geoffrey Mark. The Muratorian Fragment and the Development of the Canon. Oxford: Clarendon, 1992.

Sundberg, Albert C., Jr. "Canon Muratori: A Fourth Century List." Harvard Theological Review 66 (1973): 1-41.

Tregelles, Samuel Prideaux. Canon Muratorianus: The Earliest Catalogue of the Books of the New Testament. Oxford: Clarendon, 1897.

© James R. Adair, Jr., 1997