Caspar René Gregory (1846-1917) was born in Philadelphia and studied at the University of Pennsylvania, at Princeton Theological Seminary, and at the University of Leipzig. Declining an appointment to Johns Hopkins in 1885, he stayed at Leipzig, where he was named a full professor in 1889. As a text critic, his scholarly work was in analyzing the textual variations in the many early manuscripts and early translations of the New Testament in an effort to recreate the original text. Working in a time when hundreds of manuscripts were being discovered, published, and analyzed, he brought a sense of order and structure to all the differing systems of identification. His classification system of these manuscripts (Die griechischen Handschriften des Neuen Testaments,1908) is the system in use throughout the scholarly world today.
Close to his interest in analyzing the text was his interest in understanding the history of the "canon," the list of the books regarded as Scripture. In the early years of the Christian church, different regions preferred different collections of apostolic writings for their guidance and edification. Gradually the need for an authoritative list emerged. For centuries that list was only known from a letter of Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria, dating to 367. In 1740, however, Ludovico Antonio Muratori published a manuscript from the Ambrosian Library in Milan that included what has come to be called the Muratorian Canon. The list was thought to date from the second century, although that dating has been challenged. But the list is controversial. It includes the Gospels and many of the Epistles now in our Bible, but it does not mention Hebrews, James, or Peter and identifies two additional Epistles as being falsely attributed to Paul.
Gregory's papers are part of the library's extensive collection of manuscript and archives. On display is the transcription of the first leaf of the Muratorian Canon and Gregory's own notes on it from a seminar series.
Sources of information:
Frankfurth, Hermann. "Caspar René Gregory: ein Bekenner." Zeitwende 2 (1926.2) 113-136.
Friedrich, Karl Josef. Volksfreund Gregory: Amerikaner, Urchrist, deutscher Kämpfer Leipzig: Leopold Klotz, 1938.
Metzger, Bruce M. The Canon of the New Testament. New York : Oxford University Press, 1987.
The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge. Edited by Samuel Macauley Jackson. New York: Funk and Wagnals, 1909.
Die Religion in Geschichte und Gegenwart. Dritte Auflage. Tübingen: Mohr, 1958.