A blog reader recently submitted several questions about the Canon Muratori/the Muratorian Fragment, which provides an opportunity not only to consider this document but also to discuss the preferred way to cite Schneemelcher’s New Testament Apocrypha (NTApoc). This post will discuss the Canon Muratori/the Fragment Muratori; the next post will provide details on citing NTApoc.
Canon Muratori/the Muratorian Fragment
Sometime in the mid-eighteenth century, historian Ludovico Antonio Muratori happened upon a catalog, or annotated list of New Testament books, tucked within an eighth-century manuscript. In 1740 he published the catalog, named Canon Muratori after its discoverer. Four additional fragments of the catalog were discovered a century and a half later, but they add nothing crucial to our understanding of the work.
The extant text consists of eighty-five lines; the original was no doubt longer, since the beginning and probably the end are missing. Although all witnesses to the Canon Muratori are in Latin, most agree that the text was originally written in Greek (see Heimgartner 2002–2011). Both the presumed date (ca. 200, according to many) and even the authenticity of Canon Muratori have been called into question in recent years. Interesting as those issues are, they go far beyond the purpose of this post (on dating, see Robbins 1992, 4:928–29).
The blog reader mentioned above first asked whether SBL Press prefers one or the other of the common titles of this work: Muratorian Fragment or Muratorian Canon. We are agnostic on the matter: ABD and BNP both list the work under Muratorian Fragment, while ODCC refers to it as the Muratorian Canon. If we were forced to choose one or the other, we would select Muratorian Fragment due to the ease with which it can be abbreviated (Mur. Frag.).
If there is no numeric citation following the name of the work, then it should not be abbreviated; we prefer including the full title in such cases. However, if one wished to cite a specific line, then an abbreviation would be appropriate, as in the following:
The Epistle of Jude is referenced in Mur. Frag. 68.
Of course, not all readers will recognize that the number signifies a line, as opposed to some other type of subdivision, so one may prefer to be explicit about that, either by adding the word line before the number (Mur. Frag. line 68) or even writing “line 68 of the Muratorian Fragment” (no abbreviation) instead.
The original text of the Muratorian Fragment can be found online in a number of places. For example, the facsimile of Samuel P. Tregelles is available at Archive.org. When providing a translation of the Muratorian Fragment, one should generally cite that of a recognized authority, such as is found in Schneemelcher’s New Testament Apocrypha (see next post).
Heimgartner, Martin. 2002–2011. “Muratorian Fragment.” BNP. http://referenceworks.brillonline.com/ browse/brill-s-new-pauly.
Robbins, Gregory Allen. 1992. “Muratorian Fragment.” ABD 4:928–29.
Tregelles, Samuel P. 1867. Canon Muratorianus: The Earliest Catalogue of the Books of the New Testament. Oxford: Clarendon. Available online here.