One of the books I picked up at SBL, and the one I chose to read on the plane home was C.E. Hill, Who Chose the Gospels? Probing the Great Gospel Conspiracy (Oxford: OUP, 2010). Chuck, who has written a load of important things about the history of the NT canon (some listed on his faculty web page) has written a readable, but not sensational, treatment of the history of the four-fold gospel canon (he has also written a short summary here).
In fact Chuck doesn't think that anyone chose the gospels, he thinks (quoting and following Bruce Metzger) that they 'imposed themselves as canonical upon the church'. The approach works backwards from an excellent and thorough demonstration that Irenaeus was not alone in accepting an exclusive four-fold gospel canon towards the end of the second century (Hippolytus, Tertullian, Origen, Dionysius, Cyprian, Victorinus, Marinus and Euplus [yes a new one to me too] held fundamentally similar views). In working back through the second century Hill argues that Justin Martyr and Papias both also had a four-fold gospel collection, and there is perhaps room for some disagreement here (although it should be noted that Hill has published a long article on the "new" Papias material he discerned in Eusebius, and for a fuller argument see Hill, 'What Papias Said About John (and Luke): A "New" Papian Fragment' JTS 49 (1998), 582-629). If you work backwards from the really clear evidence I think you are more inclined to think that somewhat marginal evidence is actually proof that the four-fold gospel was known in a period when working inductively from the available evidence we might not be able to say that.
Overall I think this is a really useful book. It is not sensationalist (despite the talk of conspiracy, Hill is generally in respectful dialogue with other scholars [with a hint of frustration that they haven't considered all the relevant evidence]). Occasionally I found myself not quite so convinced of Hill's position as he was, but had to admit he had arguments for his position. Certainly if you accept that Papias had a four-gospel canon tradition this would be tremendously significant for how we read the less clear evidence in the early part of the second century.
I found quite a few problems / errors / something more than just differences of opinion, especially in relation to manuscripts and such things. Somethings to consider for the second edition:
p8. Here Hill is discussing how many other gospels existed in the second century and gives a list of nine, noting 'It is not unlikely that more Gospels might have circulated before 175. But if they once existed they have left no record, even in later lists of books to be avoided ...' But there are later lists of non-canonical gospels which do provide some record of numerous named gospels. For example, there is a Samaritan list of 35 named non-canonical gospels (J. MacDonald & A.J.B. Higgins, ‘The Beginnings of Christianity according to the Samaritans’ NTS 18(1971)54-80, esp. pp. 66-69), and the Decretum Gelasianum also names a number of gospels and other books.
p. 13. In discussing the Oxyrhynchus Papyri Hill mentions 500,000 pieces, 'only about a tenth of which have so far been published'. But in fact it is more like a hundredth, since the most recently published is P. Oxy 5071 (Parsons, cited by Hill in note 7 confirms this).
p. 20f. Here Hill is discussing the lack of early manuscripts of Mark. He argues that since church fathers knew Mark, and since some manuscripts could have included Mark alongside other gospels, 'there is reason to believe that at this time Mark was more widely used in Christian churches than the statistics of papyrus discoveries would, by themselves, lead us to believe'. I think on the contrary that there is no reason to believe this (and I have argued this more fully in an essay on Mark in a forthcoming book edited by Hill) - it is rather a consistent phenomena that church fathers who doubtless knew Mark did not often quote Mark (for Clement of Alexandria for example Cossaert has 274 quotations from Matthew; 143 from Luke; 72 from John and 1 from Mark; for Didymus Ehrman has 155 passages from Matthew; 146 passages from John; 111 passages from Luke; and 10 passages from Mark; Brogan found only one quotation from Mark in Athanasius!).
p. 25. Hill writes: 'A "book" was a scroll, or roll, a long sheet of papyrus or parchment rolled up with rods attached at each end to serve as handles.' In Greek bookrolls on papyrus no rods are used (either in contemporary illustrations or in actual archaeological finds).
p. 30f. Hill follows Hurtado's idea that use of a codex might correspond with identification of the text as scripture by the scribe; and further that public reading in church required a large codex. Since non-canonical gospels are often on rolls or small codices, they probably were not regarded as equivalent with the four canonical gospels. But in discussing the size of two non-canonical texts Hill slightly cooks the books. This is perhaps not a big problem, but suggests that perhaps the overall argument is driving how the evidence is perceived and presented. Firstly by taking P. Oxy 4009 (G.Peter?) as representing a miniature codex ('a strong possibility'), whereas we don't really know that for sure, and the editors also suggest that it could have been from a double columned codex. Secondly by describing P. Ryl 463 (G. Mary) as 'a miniature' when as reconstructed (9cm x 13.5 cm) it certainly goes beyond the normal categorisation of a miniature codex.
p. 72. Here Hill is comparing Clement of Alexandria's use of non-canonical gospels with his use of the canonical ones, citing a monograph by Mutschler [whose first name is misspelt as Bernard, when it is actually Bernhard] on Irenaeus that he used Matt 757 times; Luke 402 times; John 331 times and Mark 182 times. Now I haven't been able to check Mutschler's book, nor his definition of "use"; but it is plain that the more recent monograph actually on the subject (The Text of the Gospels in Clement of Alexandria by Carl Cossaert) offers significantly different figures: 274 quotations from Matthew; 143 from Luke; 72 from John and 1 from Mark (and actually discusses Clement's lack of knowledge of Mark).
p. 84. Here Hill is discussing the Akhmin codex of the Gospel of Peter. He writes: 'It has often been reported that this codex was found in the grave of a monk ... This is part of a legend that has grown up around the discovery. We don't know if the person in whose grave it was found was a monk or not, or what the person thought of the book. As far as we know, the gravedigger could have thrown it into the grace to get rid of it!' Well, the reason it is often reported is not because of legend, but because the original publication of the manuscript, by one of the French archaeologists who excavated the Christian cemetery at Akhmim, stated that it came from the grave of a monk. One might disagree with this, or wonder whether the archaeologists had sufficient basis for making this identification (as van Minnen does in an article cited by Hill), but the conclusion is more well-grounded than Hill's speculation. Another grave in the same cemetery contained a mathematical papyrus - the phenomena of people being buried with texts that had some relevance/value to them is fairly widely attested.
p. 118. Here Hill is discussing various aspects of Skeat's view that some NT papyrus manuscripts were originally four-gospel codices. I was especially interested in this bit, and read it especially carefully and found a couple of problems. a) He notes that the scribe of P75 has some harmonisations and suggests that these 'seem to indicate the scribe's knowledge of Matthew and perhaps Mark'. This reference to Mark goes beyond the evidence, even of Comfort and Barrett (cited as evidence) who note the scribe's knowledge of Matthew (as also picked up in Royse), since the possible reference to Mark is only in a direct parallel to a passage also in Matthew - if the scribe knows uniquely Matthean readings it doesn't make much sense to propose he drew a reading from Mark. b) Hill states 'if copied around 200, it is more likely than not that it [P75] had such a companion volume [containing Matthew and Mark], whether attached or separated.' This is interesting, but I have no idea how this likelihood is measured. I would think this is extrapolating beyodn the available evidence. c) In discussing Skeat's view of P4, 64 & 67 he states that in Skeat's view 'the codex contained at least three Gospels, and other features of the papyri indicated that this condex in fact originally contained four.' Hill gives no indication of what these 'other features' are. I had another look at Skeat and can't find any comment in this direction. d) Hill says that 'Skeat's conclusions have indeed been accepted by a number of other papyrologists', but the footnote refers only to van Haelst, writing more than twenty years before Skeat and who does not accept Skeat's view (although he does accept that P4 is probably from the same codex as P64 & P67). e) Hill notes that Skeat's views have 'not gone unchallenged' (with footnote to Head and Charlesworth) but then says: 'it seems agreed, however, that the books of Matthew and Luke represented in P4, 64, 67 were copied by the same scribe, whether bound together with Mark and John or not.' This fails to note the major disagreement about whether we should even think of Matthew and Luke as bound together.
p. 119. Hill says that P75 'has sectional divisions which would make it easier to read aloud to a congregation'. This is clearly either wrong or rather exaggerated. I'm not saying that P75 couldn't be read aloud to a congregation, but it has less help in this than just about any other NT manuscript. (On p. 121 he refers to 'the apparent liturgical design of the papyri P75' which I also found very questionable).