Athanasius was head bishop in
for 46 years. In 367, Athanasius wrote a
famous Easter letter telling Christians what henceforth they could hear, teach,
and discuss- and what to censor. In the
letter, Athanasius denounced “spiritual teachers,” declared original human
thinking to be evil, he ordered Christians to reject all “illegitimate secret
books” as “inventions of heretics full of evil teachings.” Alexandria
What makes the letter famous is Athanasius set out a list of sacred books that, he declared, Christians could keep, a list that turned out to be the earliest known record we have of what would become’ and remains to this day- the church’s New Testament canon. After listing the 22 books of the Old Testament, Athanasius added 27 books he called the only “genuine books of the New Testament.” On his list was John’s Book of Revelation. This book ignited controversial arguments within the church. Athanasius added this book to serve his own agenda. Athanasius interprets Revelation’s cosmic war as a vivid picture of his own crusade against heretics.
This letter was ordered to be copied onto the monastery wall at Nag Hammadi, someone- probably a monk resisting the order- took more than 50 sacred writings, packed and carefully sealed them into a six foot jar, and buried them for safe keeping near the cliff where they were discovered in 1945 and came to be known as the Gnostic gospels.
Athanasius died in May 373. He had succeeded in persuading many Christians to accept his version of the canon as the only “authorized’ scriptures of the New Testament. He also had enormously extended the authority, resources, and prestige of the Catholic clergy, having brought many Christian and monasteries under their supervision.
Reference~ Revelations by Elaine Pagels