The imminent New Testament scholar, Anglican, and good guy Dr Michael Bird posted something on Facebook that caught my eye. He noted that the Athanasian Canon (Festal letter 39) has a different ordered for the New Testament than we have now.

Continuing, I must without hesitation mention the scriptures of the New Testament; they are the following: the four Gospels according to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, after them the Acts of the Apostles and the seven so-called catholic epistles of the apostles — namely, one of James, two of Peter, then three of John and after these one of Jude. In addition there are fourteen epistles of the apostle Paul written in the following order: the first to the Romans, then two to the Corinthians and then after these the one to the Galatians, following it the one to the Ephesians, thereafter the one to the Philippians and the one to the Colossians and two to the Thessalonians and the epistle to the Hebrews and then immediately two to Timothy , one to Titus and lastly the one to Philemon. Yet further the Revelation of John

Maybe that is nothing — and certainly those who would dispense with St. Paul out of some 19th century liberal ignorance/bias to ignorance would love such an order — but I wonder what difference it would make in reading the New Testament.

Does the Canonical Order mean anything? Rather, is the order an influencer of theology? I would argue that the canonical order of the Gospels (generally the same across the canon lists) does slight Mark in favor of the perceived first Gospel, Matthew.

As I have argued before, mainly in a blog post and with a beer in hand at an SBL dinner, the canonical books are organically canonical. Meaning, once you lay down just a few books, the others neatly fall in line. The Gospels are similar and thus exclude those works not similar. Thomas, while being close enough to the Synoptics to merit consideration of an heterodox Christian author, just doesn’t come close. But, once you have Mark and Luke, you have St. Paul, and with St. Paul you have St Peter, and with Mark and Luke you get John, and with John you get Hebrews. And so on.

But, what about the order? Would the order make a difference in how we read the New Testament?