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Constantine's Bible: Politics and the Making of the New Testament Paperback – October 1, 2006
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This is where Dungan starts to get fancy. He asserts that the range of meaning for the term "canon" needs to be understood as a part of the rise of the Greek city-state. Fancy or not, that is what etymology is. No doubt one would want to study the uses of the term canon in order to understand its etymology. Etymology of the term canon shows that it meant more than a reed as a measuring stick. For example, in the sixth century BCE Pythagoras applied measurement to musical tones and came up with kanonikoi or "standard tones." Such measurement permeated Greek philosophy as well. In a Hellenistic culture, early Christianity adopted the idea of canon as measurement, but Clement of Rome and Origen of Alexandria know no idea of a canon as a set of official doctrines. In fact, according to Dungan, no Christian scholar before the 4th century refers to "the canon."
At just about the turn of the era, Greek philosophical thought rebelled against the idea of pseudonymous authorship. A novel practice began in the first century BC/BCE.Read more ›
First, it does an excellent job suggesting a cultural/philosophical, and primarily Hellenistic, basis for the process of canonization. This one will undoubtedly stir discussion, if not derision, among some Evangelicals. On the other hand, showing just how thorough the legitimization of the eventually canonized texts was, through the rigorous historical work of Eusebius, should please Bible-lovers by showing that the choice of books which was selected was far from arbitrary, rooted in purely historical motives, etc.
Dungan does well here in capturing an angle that will both irritate, but also comfort, sola scriptura folks. On the one hand, all of this nonsense about conspiracy can be done away with in discussions about gnostic and questionable works, which Dungan shows clearly don't pass historical muster. On the other hand, what we are left with as "canon" is the result of alleged politicization of the church through Constantine, and this brings me to some of the mild drawbacks of the book.
In a nutshell, it has become fashionable in recent years to use Constantine as a whipping boy in church history, thereby raising a cloud of suspicion over every project to which his name can be attached--an influence which gave the Church "power," and all too likely, we are led to believe, tainted the "purity" of an early age (and also one with many more loose ends--enough to allow for the disintegration of the Christian faith, one is often led in these discussions to suspect--though not necessarily by Dungan--if it wasn't for the artificial solidification of the Christian cultural base through the assertion of crass political force).Read more ›
In the first chapter "What a `Canon' of Scripture is - and is not" Dungan elucidates the distinct concepts of scripture and canon by means of a study of the concepts in other religions. In his comparative religious study Dungan concludes that while a great many religions have the concept of scripture understood as as a set of "semidurable, semifluid, slowly evolving conglomeration of sacred texts ... in use by members of a religious tradition" over a prolonged period (p. 2). A canon however is different and is taken to be the resulting collection of texts "when someone seeks to impose a strict boundary around a smaller subset of writings or teachings" (p. 3).
Chapters two through to offer historical overviews of the two trends in Christian history. In particular, Dungan locates the appeal to the canon as a legacy of Greek philosophy, especially the concern for accuracy that accompanied the Polis.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I have found this book on the formation of the early church up to Constantine to be extremely interesting and very readable for a lay person. Read morePublished 15 days ago by Chuck Jenkins
Very enlightening. difficult first chapters especially for a lay person, but well worth wading into. This book is a reread.Published 13 months ago by gaye fearing
Fist of all, I am not Roman Catholic, and so sense no personal ecclesiastical defensiveness here.
However, the argument of this book reminds me of a comment made by one of my... Read more
I am a Christian. I have been all my life. And I still am. I wish every Christian on the face of this earth could read this book.Published on August 17, 2013 by H. L. ARLEDGE
This book contains some valuable information for the christian mind in explaining some questionable things the christian church does. Great book for my library.Published on January 22, 2013 by RT Hines
Over the course of 35 years of teaching a course "The Making of the New Testament" at U. of TN, Dungan has gathered gems from history and from the research of his many students. Read morePublished on September 12, 2012 by Quincy Harris
I've always been interested in these 50 Constantine Bibles; one of the least known and undiscovered relics of the Christian Church. Read morePublished on August 24, 2011 by Z. G Zinzel
Dungan presents a desription of the history of the canon of the New Testament from the perspective of the political process. Read morePublished on October 6, 2009 by J. Matos