"Antilegomena" (from Greek αντιλεγομένα, meaning things contradicted or disputed, literally spoken against) was an epithet the Church Fathers used to denote books of the New Testament that, although sometimes publicly read in the churches, were not—for a considerable amount of time—considered to be genuine, or received into the canon of Scripture. They were thus contrasted with the "Homologoumena" (from Greek ομολογουμένα), or universally acknowledged writings.
In multiple languages and traditions, the term Homologoumena, and its opposited term Antilegomena, are considerated viable alternative "friendly" forms to the dogmatic terms Protocanonical and Deuterocanonical; with the only exception of those books that at the present day are not included in any Christian Canon of the Bible. So, in multiple traditions through the World, the Deuterocanonical books of the Old Testament are also known as Antilegomena of the Old Testament, and the Antilegomena of the New Testament are also known as Deuterocanonical books of the New Testament.
The term is sometimes applied also to certain books in the Hebrew Bible. There are records in the Mishna of controversy in some Jewish circles during the second century A.D. relative to the canonicity of the Song of Solomon, Ecclesiastes, and Esther. Some doubts were expressed about Proverbs during this period as well. The Gemara notes that the book of Ezekiel had also been questioned about its authority until objections to it were settled in 66 A.D. Also, in the first century B.C. the disciples of Shammai contested the canonicity of Ecclesiastes because of its pessimism, whereas the school of Hillel just as vigorously upheld it. At the school of Jamnia (circa 90 A.D.) there was further discussion, see Development of the Jewish Bible canon for details.
The first church historian, Eusebius, circa AD 303-325, applied the term "Antilegomena" to the Epistle of James, the Epistle of Jude, 2 Peter, 2 and 3 John, the Acts of Paul, the Shepherd of Hermas, the Apocalypse of Peter, the Epistle of Barnabas, the Didache, the Apocalypse of John, and the Gospel according to the Hebrews:
- "Among the disputed writings, [των αντιλεγομένων], which are nevertheless recognized by many, are extant the so-called epistle of James and that of Jude, also the second epistle of Peter, and those that are called the second and third of John, whether they belong to the evangelist or to another person of the same name. Among the rejected writings must be reckoned also the Acts of Paul, and the so-called Shepherd, and the Apocalypse of Peter, and in addition to these the extant epistle of Barnabas, and the so-called Teachings of the Apostles; and besides, as I said, the Apocalypse of John, if it seem proper, which some, as I said, reject, but which others class with the accepted books. And among these some have placed also the Gospel according to the Hebrews, with which those of the Hebrews that have accepted Christ are especially delighted. And all these may be reckoned among the disputed books. [των αντιλεγομένων]"
- "It is not indeed right to overlook the fact that some have rejected the Epistle to the Hebrews, saying that it is disputed [αντιλέγεσθαι] by the church of Rome, on the ground that it was not written by Paul."
Codex Sinaiticus, a fourth century text, includes the Shepherd of Hermas and the Epistle of Barnabas.
The original Peshitta excluded 2-3 John, 2 Peter, Jude and Revelation. Some modern editions, such as the Lee Peshitta of 1823, include them.
During the Reformation, Luther brought up the issue of the "Antilegomena" among the Church Fathers. Since he questioned Hebrews, James, Jude, and Revelation, these books are sometimes termed "Luther's Antilegomena". See also Lutheran canon.
F. C. Baur used the term in his classification of the Pauline Epistles, classing Romans, 1-2 Corinthians and Galatians as "homologoumena"; Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1-2 Thessalonians and Philemon as "antilegomena"; and the Pastoral Epistles as "notha" (spurious writings).
In current Lutheran usage "antilegomena" describes those of the New Testament books that have achieved a doubtful place in the Canon. These are the Epistles of James and Jude, 2 Peter, 2 and 3 John, the Apocalypse of John, and the Epistle to the Hebrews.
- This article incorporates text from the Encyclopædia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, a publication now in the public domain.
- This article incorporates text from the public domain 1907 edition of The Nuttall Encyclopædia.
- The Canon Debate, McDonald & Sanders editors, 2002, chapter 23: The New Testament Canon of Eusebius by Everett R. Kalin, pages 386-404
- The Canon Debate, 2002, page 391. Everett R. Kalin further defines Eusebius's use of the term on page 403: "the writings that have been spoken against and are thus disputed—or, in a certain sense, rejected, even though in wide use".
- Knox Theological Seminary: "Solomon's allegory was relegated to the antilegomena because even the allegorical anthropomorphism of God espousing to Himself a people, once again reflecting the comedic imagination, was regarded as too bold and too bodily." Catholic Encyclopedia: Canon of the Old Testament: "All the books of the Hebrew Old Testament are cited in the New except those which have been aptly called the Antilegomena of the Old Testament, viz., Esther, Ecclesiastes, and Canticles"
- Church History 3.25.3-.5
- Church History 3.3.5
- Lutheran Cyclopedia: Canon: "6. Throughout the Middle Ages there was no doubt as to the divine character of any book of the NT. Luther again pointed to the distinction between homologoumena and antilegomena* (followed by M. Chemnitz* and M. Flacius*). The later dogmaticians let this distinction recede into the background. Instead of antilegomena they use the term deuterocanonical. Rationalists use the word canon in the sense of list. Lutherans in America followed Luther and held that the distinction between homologoumena and antilegomena must not be suppressed. But caution must be exercised not to exaggerate the distinction."
- Luther's Antilegomena at bible-researcher.com
- The Canon Debate, McDonald & Sanders editors, 2002, page 458.
- Lutheran Cyclopedia: Antilegomena
- Christian Cyclopedia: Antilegomena
- Encyclopedia Britannica: Antilegomena
- The Witness of History for Scripture (Homologoumena and Antilegomena) by Franz August Otto Pieper
- Presentation of Lutheran position: The Canon—What Is The Import Of The Distinction Between The Canonical And Deuterocanonical (Antilegomena) Books? by Gary P. Baumler
- Luther's Antilegomena at bible-researcher.com
- Schaff's History of the Christian Church: The Revolution at Wittenberg. Carlstadt and the New Prophets.: Andreas Carlstadt "weighed the historic evidence, discriminated between three orders of books as of first, second, and third dignity, putting the Hagiographa of the Old Testament and the seven Antilegomena of the New in the third order, and expressed doubts on the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch. He based his objections to the Antilegomena, not on dogmatic grounds, as Luther, but on the want of historical testimony; his opposition to the traditional Canon was itself traditional; he put ante-Nicene against post-Nicene tradition. This book on the Canon, however, was crude and premature, and passed out of sight."
- Catholic Encyclopedia: Canon of the New Testament: "Even a few Catholic scholars of the Renaissance type, notably Erasmus and Cajetan, had thrown some doubts on the canonicity of the above-mentioned Antilegomena."
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