The Lost Gospel
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Books of New Testament Chosen

A.D. 367

A copy of the Gutenberg Bible includes Old and New Testament texts. The advent of the printing press in the mid-1400s gradually replaced the laborious process of hand-copying entire books and made written texts much more accessible.
A copy of the Gutenberg Bible includes Old and New Testament texts. The advent of the printing press in the mid-1400s gradually replaced the laborious process of hand-copying entire books and made written texts much more accessible.
Photograph copyright Corbis

St. Athanasius of Alexandria, Egypt, lived from about 293 to 373. He spent much of his life waging a theological battle with Arianism, the belief that Jesus, though the son of God, was inferior to God the Father.

As a young theologian Athanasius took part in the Council of Nicea in 325. This meeting established an orthodoxy that proclaimed the equality of Jesus and God the Father as divine beings of the same substance.

But in the succeeding decades changing tides of theological belief and church politics resulted in five different periods of exile for Athanasius, who was the bishop of Alexandria and an important Egyptian national figure as well as a religious leader. During one such banishment, secreted among hermetic monks of the Egyptian desert, he penned Discourses Against the Arians—his strongest indictment of Arianism and most precise description of orthodox Christian belief, as represented by the four New Testament Gospels.

In 367 he decreed to all Egyptian Christians that the only texts they should regard as sacred were 27 Jewish and Christian books specifically listed by him. The works on that list comprise the New Testament as we know it today.

Athanasius died shortly before his orthodox views gained the upper hand over Arianism at the Council of Constantinople in A.D. 381.