Named after the discoverer and first editor, L. A. Muratori (in the "Antiquitates italicae", III, Milan, 1740, 851 sq.), the oldest known canon or list of books of the New Testament. To combat the heresies of the 2nd century, the Church developed this Canon, a list of books in use in the Church in Rome in 200. The manuscript containing the canon originally belonged to Bobbio and is now in the Bibliotheca Ambrosiana at Milan (Cod. J 101 sup.). Written in the eighth century, it plainly shows the uncultured Latin of that time. The fragment is of the highest importance for the history of the Biblical canon. It was written in Rome itself or in its environs about 180 - 200; probably the original was in Greek, from which it was translated into Latin. This Latin text is preserved solely in the manuscript of the Ambrosiana. A few sentences of the Muratorian Canon are preserved in some other manuscripts, especially in codices of St. Paul's Epistles in Monte Cassino. The canon consists of no mere list of the Scriptures, but of a survey, which supplies at the same time historical and other information regarding each book. The beginning is missing; the preserved text begins with the last line concerning the second Gospel and the notices, preserved entire, concerning the third and fourth Gospels. Then there are mentioned: The Acts, St. Paul's Epistles (including those to Philemon, Titus and Timothy; the spurious ones to the Laodiceans and Alexandrians are rejected); furthermore, the Epistle of St. Jude and two Epistles of St. John; among the Scriptures which "in catholica habentur", are cited the "Sapientia ab amicis Salomonis in honorem ipsius scripta", as well as the Apocalypses of St. John and St. Peter, but with the remark that some will not allow the latter to be read in the church. Then mention is made of the Pastor of Hermas, which may be read anywhere but not in the divine service; and, finally, there are rejected false Scriptures, which were used by heretics. In consequence of the barbarous Latin there is no complete understanding of the correct meaning of some of the sentences. As to the author, many conjectures were made (Papias, Hegesippus, Caius of Rome, Hippolytus of Rome, Rhodon, Melito of Sardis were proposed); but no well founded hypothesis has been adduced up to the present.
. . . nevertheless he was present, and so he placed them in his narrative. The third book of the Gospel is that according to Luke. Luke, the well-known physician, after the ascension of Christ, whom Paul had taken with him as one zealous for the law, composed it in his own name, according to the general belief. Yet he himself had not seen the Lord in the flesh; and therefore, as he was able to ascertain events, so indeed he begins to tell the story from the birth of John.
The fourth of the Gospels is that of John, one of the disciples. To his fellow disciples and bishops, who had been urging him to write, he said, Fast with me from today to three days, and what will be revealed to each one let us tell it to one another. In the same night it was revealed to Andrew, one of the apostles, that John should write down all things in his own name while all of them should review it.
And so, though various elements may be taught in the individual books of the Gospels, nevertheless this makes no difference to the faith of believers, since by the one sovereign Spirit all things have been declared in all the Gospels: concerning the nativity, the passion, the resurrection, concerning life with his disciples, and concerning his twofold coming; the first in lowliness when he was despised, which has taken place, the second glorious in royal power, which is still in the future.
What marvel is it then, if John so consistently mentions these particular points also in his epistles, saying about himself, "What we have seen with our eyes and heard with our ears and our hands have handled, these things we have written to you?" For in this way he professes himself to be not only an eye-witness and hearer, but also a writer of all the marvelous deeds of the Lord, in their order.
Moreover, the Acts of all the Apostles were written in one book. For "Most excellent Theophilus" Luke compiled the individual events that took place in his presence, as he plainly shows by omitting the martyrdom of Peter as well as the departure of Paul from the city when he journeyed to Spain.
As for the epistles of Paul, they themselves make clear to those desiring to understand, which ones they are, from what place, or for what reason they were sent. First of all, to the Corinthians, prohibiting their heretical schisms; next, to the Galatians, against circumcision; then to the Romans he wrote at length, explaining the plan of the Scriptures, and also that Christ is their principle. It is necessary for us to discuss these one by one, since the blessed apostle Paul himself, following the example of his predecessor John, writes by name to only seven churches in the following sequence: To the Corinthians first, to the Ephesians second, to the Philippians third, to the Colossians fourth, to the Galatians fifth, to the Thessalonians sixth, to the Romans seventh. It is true that he writes once more to the Corinthians and to the Thessalonians for the sake of admonition, yet it is clearly recognizable that there is one Church spread throughout the whole extent of the earth. For John also in the Apocalypse, though he writes to seven churches, nevertheless speaks to all. Paul also wrote out of affection and love one to Philemon, one to Titus, and two to Timothy; and these are held sacred in the esteem of the Church catholic for the regulation of ecclesiastical discipline.
There is current also an epistle to the Laodiceans, and another to the Alexandrians, both forged in Paul's name to further the heresy of Marcion, and several others which cannot be received into the catholic Church. For it is not fitting that gall be mixed with honey.
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. We receive only the apocalypses of John and Peter, though some of us are not willing that the latter be read in church. 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.
But we accept nothing whatever of Arsinous or Valentinus or Miltiades, who also composed a new book of psalms for Marcion, together with Basilides, the Asian founder of the Cataphrygians.