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Antilegomena, a direct transliteration of the Greek ἀντιλεγόμενα, refers to written texts whose authenticity or value is disputed.[1]

Eusebius in his Church History written c. 325 used the term for those Christian scriptures that were "disputed" or literally those works which were "spoken against" in Early Christianity, before the closure of the New Testament canon. It is disputed whether or not Eusebius divides his books into three groups of homologoumena/accepted, antilegomena, and heretical — or four by adding a notha/spurious group. These antilegomena or "disputed writings" were widely read in the Early Church and included the Epistle of James, the Epistle of Jude, 2 Peter, 2 and 3 John, the Apocalypse of John, the Gospel of the Hebrews, the Apocalypse of Peter (unique in being the only book never accepted as canonical which was commentated upon by a Church Father), the Acts of Paul, the Shepherd of Hermas, the Epistle of Barnabas and the Didache.[2][3]


The first major church historian, Eusebius,[4] who wrote his Church History c. AD 325, applied the Greek term "antilegomena" to the disputed writings of the Early Church:

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].

The Epistle to the Hebrews is also listed earlier:[5]

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 4th-century text and possibly one of the Fifty Bibles of Constantine, includes the Shepherd of Hermas and the Epistle of Barnabas. The original Peshitta (NT portion is c. 5th century) excluded 2 and 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, and though none of the New Testament books of the Canon of Trent were rejected from Luther's canon, the terminology remains in use today.[6] Since he questioned Hebrews, James, Jude and Revelation, these books are sometimes termed "Luther's Antilegomena".[7]

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).[8]

In current Lutheran usage antilegomena describes those 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.[9]

Hebrew Bible

The term is sometimes applied also to certain books in the Hebrew Bible.[10][11] There are records in the Mishna of controversy in some Jewish circles during the 2nd century AD 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 AD. Also, in the 1st century BC the disciples of Shammai contested the canonicity of Ecclesiastes because of its pessimism, whereas the school of Hillel just as vigorously upheld it. At a hypothetical Council of Jamnia (c. 90 AD) Heinrich Graetz postulated there was further discussion.

See also



  1. ^ Liddell; Scott, A Greek–English Lexicon .
  2. ^ Kalin 2002.
  3. ^ Davis, Glenn (2010), The Development of the Canon of the New Testament, p. 1 .
  4. ^ of Cæsarea 325, 3.25.3-.5.
  5. ^ of Cæsarea 325, 3.3.5.
  6. ^ "Canon", Lutheran Cyclopedia, LCMS, 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. 
  7. ^ Luther's Antilegomena, Bible researcher .
  8. ^ McDonald & Sanders 2002, p. 458.
  9. ^ "Antilegomena", Lutheran Cyclopedia, LCMS .
  10. ^ John’s Revelation project, 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. 
  11. ^ "Canon of the Old Testament", Catholic Encyclopedia, 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 .


  • 12px This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Antilegomena". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. 
  • This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainWood, James, ed. (1907). "article name needed". The Nuttall Encyclopædia. London and New York: Frederick Warne. 
  • of Cæsarea, Eusebius (325), Church History, Christian classics ethereal library, 3.25.3-.5 .
  • Kalin, Everett R (2002), "23: The New Testament Canon of Eusebius", in McDonald; Sanders, The Canon Debate, pp. 386–404 .
  • McDonald; Sanders, eds. (2002), The Canon Debate .

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